The sound of school bells broke the morning silence in McDuffie County on Friday, as students cracked the books again for the first day of school in the 2002-2003 term.
Students from Pre-K classes to the 12th grade made their way down the long halls and corridors of McDuffie County's seven schools in anticipation of getting this new school year off to a great start.
"So far everything is running real smooth," said an excited Dr. Ed Grisham, Superintendent of McDuffie County Schools. "All our teachers and administrators are geared up and ready for another great year."
Approximately 4,200 regular students and 125 Pre-K children are expected to attend school this year in McDuffie County. The ninth through 12th grades at Thomson High School are planning to accommodate close to 1,215 students, while Thomson Middle School is geared to handle nearly 1,000 kids. Other schools and their numbers are: Norris Elementary-560, Maxwell Elementary-532, Thomson Elementary-510, Dearing Elementary-460 and Crossroads Alternative-55.
Dr. Grisham explained that to get ready for opening day was a job in itself, for a number of major construction and renovation projects were planned and completed just in time for school.
"Two of the biggest projects we completed this year were at Thomson High and Maxwell Elementary," Grisham said. "AT THS, a new agriculture-horticulture complex is now ready for students. This state-of-the-art facility is the home of two classrooms and a laboratory area."
Thomson High Principal Bill Reese added, "We are very excited about this new expansion to our campus. This ag facility, with its 3000 square foot lab, will allow us to perform more hands-on teaching in the areas of ag-mechanics and ag-wiring. We will also be able to teach how to raise fresh-water fish during the aqua-culture classes."
At Maxwell Elementary, an eight-classroom edition and a new pe facility have been completed, along with major renovations to the school's media center, Grisham said.
The other schools in the system have received some new carpet and tile, new lighting, painting, and overall renovation to portions of the hallways.
"Perhaps our biggest problem in the Mcduffie County Schools this year is our lunch program at Maxwell Elementary," Grisham said. "We are in the process of completely re-doing the cafeteria, so in order to meet the needs of our lunch program, we will be satellite feeding our meals from Thomson Elementary for two to three months. That means that the meals will be cooked and prepared at TES, and then they will be delivered to Maxwell for the students. I am asking the parents to please be patient with us, as we complete this project."
Personnel wise, Grisham said that all teaching positions are filled in the school system, that includes 25 new teachers and several new administrative people.
"We have one new principal and five new assistant principals in our system this year," Grisham added.
The new staff includes Steve Rhodes as new principal at Norris Elementary. He is replacing long-time principal Bob Manning, who retired last year.
New assistant principals are Dr. Elizabeth Harper at Norris, Isaac Lee and Pamela Rhea at Thomson Middle, Cecil Strong at Thomson High and Mychelle Swain at Maxwell Elementary.
Also, Dr. Jim Franklin is now the head of administrative services and transportation for the school system, replacing Roy Yelton who retired following last school term.
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