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The reopening of school would have been mostly uneventful if not for an unexpected visitor who made his/her way onto the campus of Cairo High School Friday morning.
Just as school had gotten underway at CHS, a raccoon who seemed out of sorts was discovered on the north end of the campus.
“We were not sure if the animal was rabid or not and we were not willing to take any chances, so we immediately notified local officials,” CHS principal Chris Lokey said.
Lokey contacted Grady County administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, who dispatched County Animal Control director Shawn Mobley to investigate.
“Not sure if the raccoon had caught Syrupmaker fever or just wanted to share in the back to school fun, but officer Mobley was able to quickly capture the animal and remove it from our campus,” Lokey said.
Mobley said his office has observed the raccoon for three days and it showed no signs of being rabid. According to the Animal Control director, there was no salivating or loss of motor skills.
“Luckily we were able to net the raccoon and safely remove it from the campus with no bites or injuries. Our main concern is that nothing happens to children or the public in these situations,” Mobley said.
Following three days of observation, Mobley says the animal was released back into the wild. He noted that had the animal appeared to be rabid, Environmental Health Specialists would have been contacted and they would have conducted lab tests to determine if the animal was rabid.
“Besides our furry friend, our school opening got off to a great start. Thank you to our staff, students and parents who have helped make this opening a success. Our traffic pattern is going well as parents are getting used to our new pickup and drop-off procedures,” principal Lokey said.
The CHS principal also voiced his appreciation for Grady County School System Police Chief Redell Walton and CHS school resource officer Gary Hines for their assistance in directing traffic during student drop-off and pickup.
“I would also like to thank our assistant principals and teachers for their assistance with these new procedures. This has helped to ease traffic flow. Once again, we would like to thank our parents and students for their patience as we all adjust to our new routines,” Lokey said.
First year Whigham principal Zack Wilson and his faculty are having to work around construction and the temporary inconvenience of portable bathrooms, but it has not been a problem, he reports.
“The opening of Whigham School went very well considering the construction that is going on and many of our students having to use the portable bathroom trailers. Teachers reported that the use of the trailers went well. Rules and procedures were in places and safety is our top priority,” principal Wilson said.
Construction is also underway on the campus of Southside Elementary School, but that has not been a problem, according to principal Kevin Strickland.
“Southside was blessed with a smooth start to the 2019-2020 school year. We acknowledge there are a few procedures that parents might view as being problematic such as the length of drop-off and pickup times but items such as these usually iron themselves out within a few days once new people become accustomed,” Strickland added.
“We are excited about the work that has taken place at Southside over the summer months. We anticipate the new lighting project, additions to the auditorium renovation, installation of new air conditioner units, and security cameras and security doors will improve the daily operations and overall safety of the school. We are also extremely excited about the recent installation of interactive monitors in grades kindergarten, first, fourth and fifth. These monitors will enhance student engagement and hopefully boost student achievement,” the Southside principal commented.
Strickland says work will begin at any time on the new sign at the front of the new administration building. He also reports that new playground equipment, purchased with donations and monies raised in the spring, could be installed this week.
“We are still humbled and amazed at the support the community provided for this much-needed playground equipment. For that we are very grateful,” Strickland said.
Northside Elementary School principal Dr. Cheryl Larkins reported a “quiet” start of the new year at her school. She also reported a significant increase in enrollment at Northside.
“We have gotten so much community support to help our students with school supplies, bookbags and various other needed items. Thank you to Mrs. Nola Daughtry for organizing the Back to School Blitz, which provided many of our students with needed supplies. At Northside, we are anticipating an awesome school year and we are looking forward to our Eagles soaring,” Dr. Larkins said.
Shiver Elementary School principal Todd Jones compared the reopening of school at Shiver as “picking up where we left off at the end of last year.”
“Our drop-off and pickup, as well as our bus pickup and drop-off, were smooth. We do have a few new student faces and they are transitioning well. We’re looking forward to ‘Growing Strong Hearts and Minds’ this year at Shiver,” principal Jones added.
“Our returning students know our expectations, and they fell back into their routine as if they never left for the summer!” said Eastside Elementary School principal Chiquila Wright.
Ms. Wright said all of her students returned to school on the first day ready to learn. “As a Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) School, we work hard to set consistent expectations throughout the school which makes a smooth transition from one grade to the next,” she said.
“Our teachers are excited about the new Smart TVs in third through fifth grades. They have already begun to use them as a daily part of their instruction. Lights, camera, learn…we are setting the stage for a successful school year,” Wright said.
Washington Middle School opened for the new term with a new principal and he reports that Friday was a very good day.
“Everyone agreed it was one of the best first days of school they could recall,” WMS principal Michael Best said. “Our 6th graders had to take in a lot of information and procedures and they responded well and with great attitudes,” principal Best added.
According to the new WMS principal, it was nothing new for the 7th and 8th graders. “They got back into the routine quickly. I’m proud of our 8th graders who showed their leadership potential and what they are doing to help make this a successful year,” Best said.
“I guess our biggest challenge was getting everyone on the bus and home safely in the afternoon and we succeeded, so it was a great day,” Best said.
Grady County School superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard concurred with his principals and reported he had received less than a handful of complaints in the first three days of the new year.
“Our administrators, teachers and staff have worked hard preparing for the beginning of a new year and that work has paid off. We are looking forward to an exceptional year of learning and achievement in the Grady County schools,” Dr. Gilliard said.
The county’s seven schools opened with a lower total enrollment than last year and through the third day of school the enrollment remains down slightly.
Last Friday, 4,210 students reported to schools on the opening day while in 2018 there were 4,530 students in attendance. In 2018, by the third day of the school year, enrollment had increased to 4,602, but as of Tuesday that total this year was only 4,544.
According to Dr. Gilliard, the projected opening enrollment was set at 4,664, which was based, in part, on the total number of students who are currently enrolled, which includes students enrolled in local schools last year plus new students that have enrolled this term. As of Tuesday, the enrolled total was 4,789. Dr. Gilliard said that number will decrease once students transfer to other schools or school districts and are deleted out of the local enrollment.
The number of students present on Tuesday showed decreases for all schools with the exception of Northside and Washington. On the same day in 2018, Northside had 356 students and this year there were 396. Likewise, for Washington in 2018 there were 683 students present on the third day and this year there were 720.