Welcome back! First day and week of school hits Clark County Public Schools

Published 9:17 am Thursday, August 18, 2022

On Monday night, Amy Shoemaker – a veteran kindergarten teacher at Strode Station Elementary School – pulled into Walmart at 8:45 p.m. to ensure all her supplies were gathered for the next day.

“I wanted the name tags ready,” said Shoemaker. “I was up. I don’t think I ate last night.”

She wasn’t alone in anticipation.

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A busy yet exciting day hit Winchester on Tuesday. It continued throughout the week as Clark County Public Schools opened following a summer of fun for many of its students and teachers.

“I had multiple kids run up and hug me, so it was nice that they remembered me,” acknowledged Amanda Richardson, a full-time substitute teacher at George Rogers Clark High School.

The day started early at different locations, including Conkwright Elementary School off Mt. Sterling Road.

With buses arriving and students being dropped off between 7:15-7:50 a.m., faculty was outside to welcome new and returning pupils.

Among those finding a way to make the experience both entertaining and enthusiastic was music teacher Krista Knox. She wore a flamingo outfit that drew laughs of appreciation from many students and staff.

At Baker Intermediate School, an early assembly had students engage in team-building exercises.

Notably, it also welcomed students.

“We have a message, a theme behind it about being new to the school, but it’s a lot like what you’re used to,” said Baker Intermediate School Principal Josh Mounts. “I think there’s just a feel in the air … It’s a new beginning.”

Across the school district, students will learn a varied curriculum.

For example, Chelsea Mobley’s sophomore English class at GRC will spend time covering informational text. At the same time, Shearer Elementary School third grade teacher Danielle Keeton uses different STEM activities incorporating blocks, magnets, and more.

“Not everybody can learn the same way,” Keeton said. “So, we’ll do a lot of hands-on [teaching] in my room. We’ll do a lot of visuals, we’ll do some paper and pencil, but we do a lot of things so I can meet [the needs] of all learners. It’s important for me to make sure that they get it the way that they need it.”

Reading intervention is offered throughout the district, and teachers such as Amy Handshoe of Strode Station Elementary School provide math intervention.

“With the math intervention, I am focused on helping students get to grade levels and helping them with any skills or any deficits that they may have in their math content area,” said Handshoe.

In addition to content, the first day is spent going over basic rules and expectations.

Elementary students often have to learn essential life skills, and middle school students learn to be aware of expectations.

“We spend a lot of time the very first week teaching them how to be a junior high student,” said Bellamy Miller, a 7th-grade English/Language Arts teacher at Robert D. Campbell Junior High School. “There’s a lot of independent skills to learn and responsibilities and things like that. So, the first week is definitely focused on procedures, how we run as a building, and how we want them to move to and from.”

While many students came well-dressed and filled with excitement, a few may have been having a more difficult time.

Fortunately, the staff was on hand, ready to provide needed support.

One such person was Kari McGrath, a school counselor at Conkwright Elementary School.

“Especially our new kids or even kindergartners, they often times are more nervous than others. Mom’s and Dad’s also sometimes have a hard time saying goodbye, which is normal”, McGrath said. “Anything we can do to help them feel comfortable, especially the first day we really want to do that.”

Plus, just as some students are new to the building, so indeed are some faculty members.

Among them are Whitney Embs, an English and freshman interventions teacher at George Rogers Clark High School, and assistant principal Lindsey Campbell of Shearer Elementary School.

“I’ve heard really good things about GRC,” said Embs. “They really want to help their teachers be the best that they can, and essentially help the kids be the best that they can be.”

“We’ve prepared our teachers with training and ourselves with training as well just to lead and guide our students and our teachers to know what direction our district and school is moving,” said Campbell.

For newly-appointed Robert D. Campbell Junior High School Principal Jason Kincaid, this year also represents new hope two years after COVID-19 impacted education.

“Last year was a semi-normal year, and we hope to just make this year as normal as possible,” said Kincaid. “Seventh and 8th-grade socially is a hard time anyway …The pandemic really made it hard on our kids.”

Whatever concerns may be had, one common theme seemed to resonate throughout the day as teachers and other staff considered the opening of the school year.

“The first day of school is very exciting. [The kids] have been home all summer, and they’re so excited to come back to school and see their friends and meet their new teacher”, said Michele Brownlee, a 1st-grade teacher at Shearer Elementary School. “They just seem so happy and eager to learn.”