Preparations continue for first day

By Trina Trice

Ready or not, the first day of school is Monday.

As the big day approaches, the school district's maintenance crews busy themselves to clean up the county's 54 schools.

The school system expects more than 50,000 students on the first day.

The summer went by too quickly for Briana Turner and Kristina Shores, students at Mundy's Mill and Jonesboro high schools, respectively.

"Everything went by so fast this year," Turner said. "When people ask me what grade I'm in I have to think about it and say, ?Wait, I'm a junior.'"

Turner is looking forward to the 2003-2004 school year so that she can work on getting a volleyball scholarship.

Shores isn't quite as ready to go back to school, though.

"I don't know, this summer went by so fast," she said. "But I am ready to get high school over with so I can go to college."

The two students are worried, though, that if the school system loses its accreditation, the effort they put into their schoolwork won't matter.

While Shores said her mother is willing to move to Henry County if the district doesn't get off of probation, Turner doesn't think it's fair if she won't qualify for a HOPE Scholarship.

"We worked this hard to keep our grades at 3.5," Turner said. "A lot of my friends' parents want to transfer them out ?cause they're afraid."

Some teachers who are new employees of the school system aren't worried about its recent problems with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the organization that accredits more than 13,000 schools in the Southeast.

Marc Gonzales and Philip Shiflet, teachers at North Clayton High School and Babb Middle School respectively, say they are focusing on the kids.

"We love the kids," Gonzales said. "I think it'll fix itself. I grew up in the area so I can really relate (to the community)."

The school system hired 670 teachers, counselors and media specialists.

Lyne Miller and Amelia George, who were roommates at LaGrange College, are new teachers in the county.

"I chose Clayton County because it's close to Atlanta, but not in downtown Atlanta," George said. "There's a lot more to do here than where we came from. When we interviewed, (school officials) were very receptive to new teachers."

New and returning teachers have spent the week planning for their students' return to school. Every year, teachers use the week before the first day of school to get their classrooms ready and to finalize lesson plans.