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Students eager to get back to school in the Miss-Lou

At left, Liam Jones, left, was not ready for the first day of Pre-K 4 at Cathedral Elementary School. At right, First graders Bryceden Bush, from left, Chloe Carter, Kolbi Brown, Lena Darcey and Kristopher Dorman put their fingers over their mouths after roll call to signify silence during the first day of school at Vidalia Lower Elementary Monday. (Ben Hillyer & Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)
At left, Liam Jones, left, was not ready for the first day of Pre-K 4 at Cathedral Elementary School. At right, First graders Bryceden Bush, from left, Chloe Carter, Kolbi Brown, Lena Darcey and Kristopher Dorman put their fingers over their mouths after roll call to signify silence during the first day of school at Vidalia Lower Elementary Monday. (Ben Hillyer & Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Aarion Johnson walked into Robert Lewis Magnet School Monday ready to succeed.

The sixth-grade student knew she had no other choice.

“I wanted to be a part of this school because they only accept excellence, and that’s the kind of person I want to be,” Johnson, 11, said. “They expect the best out of all their students, and that’s going to make me be the best student I can be.”

Johnson joined thousands of other students in the Miss-Lou Monday who waved goodbye to summer vacation and started the first day of the 2014-15 school year.

The transition wasn’t a tough one for Johnson, who said she had been looking forward to the day she could officially call herself a magnet school student all summer.

“I was really nervous this morning,” Johnson said. “But once I got here and started making friends, I had a great day.”

RLMS Principal Zandra McDonald said the first day of school went even smoother than she expected.

Last year when the school opened its doors for the first time as a magnet school, McDonald was surprised at how many parents were lined up outside the school before the required drop-off time.

Her expectations were easily reached again this year.

“Parents were supposed to be here with their students at 7:30 a.m., and I had parents showing up as early as 10 minutes until 7 a.m.,” McDonald said. “The level of excitement here has not faded one bit, and that’s been great to see.”

The school expanded this year to grades six through eight after experiencing success last year, when it only accepted sixth-grade students.

Eighth-grader Malana Tennessee said she transferred from Morgantown Middle School with the hopes of learning more about technology through the school’s heavy science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum.

“My dad fixes computers, so I’ve always been around technology and want to learn more about it,” Tennessee said. “I figured this was the place for me to do that, because they’re using a lot of technology in the classrooms.”

Down the street at Cathedral School, elementary principal Shannon Bland was dealing with a younger group of students going through their first day.

But it wasn’t a student that presented the biggest hurdle of the day.

“We had the air conditioning go out this morning in the pre-school wing, so that was a bit unexpected,” Bland said. “We made a few quick adjustments, moved teachers around to different classrooms and everything worked out great.”

Bland said it’s not unusual for her to deal with a few students who are upset to detach from their parents’ hands on the first day of school.

This year, however, was different.

“We really didn’t have a lot of that today, because we staggered them throughout the day so the students could actually come in with their parents, see the rooms and get used to everything first,” Bland said. “I also had 18 students with siblings at the school, so they’ve been around the classrooms with their older siblings and are familiar with them.

“I think for them, they were just excited because they get to go to big school now.”

Across the river in Concordia Parish, Superintendent Paul Nelson said every school principal reported a smooth day in the hallways.

All schools in the parish were only in session for a half day Monday, which Nelson said ended up keeping students and parents out of heavy rain that blew through the area later in the day.

“We were very happy with the first day of school, and just glad everyone didn’t have to go through the weather to get home,” Nelson said. “The first day is always an interesting one for schools, but I visited every school except Monterey, and everything seemed to be running smoothly.”

Nelson said exact enrollment numbers would be finalized later this week or early next week as students were still showing up to schools Monday to register.

“I’m thinking we’re going to be right around 3,700, which is pretty close to where we were at the end of last year,” Nelson said. “In the last 7 or 8 years, we’ve been losing 50 students a year from families moving away and different reasons, so I think we’ll be right around those numbers this year.”

Trinity Episcopal Day School and Delta Charter School in Ferriday begin their first day of class Thursday.

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