Smiles to welcome back students

By Greg Gelpi

Dread of returning to school after the summer break will be met with friendly faces of Clayton County schools volunteers.

Day One, a new program in the school system, will ease students back into school as volunteers welcome them back with free gifts and school supplies.

"What their main goal is is to smile at each child, shake the hand of each child and say some words of encouragement to each child," said Camille Barbee Olmstead, a spokeswoman for the school system.

The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce and the school system are partnering to place volunteers at each of the system's 55 schools Aug. 9, the first day of school.

From the moment students climb the steps of the yellow school buses, they will see bus drivers donning Day One T-shirts. Bus routes will be lined with signs welcoming students back with the program's slogan "Educational renaissance: Rebirth, revival and renewal."

"So, as soon as they get on the bus, they know there's something new about Clayton County," Olmstead said.

Volunteers will greet students as they arrive at school with school supplies and bookmarks for parents. The bookmarks list the 40 developmental aspects of raising productive children.

"Kids really want to know that the people in the community care about them," Olmstead said.

To ensure that all is well with the school facilities for the first day back, system maintenance workers are working to wrap up summer projects and complete routine cleaning, said Larry Anderson, the coordinating supervisor of facilities maintenance.

"We've been working the past two to three weeks seven days a week," Anderson said. "We're battling the clock at some schools."

Despite the shortened summer, he said that the schools will be safe and clean when students arrive for the first day.

Anderson chuckled, saying that there is a misconception that nothing happens in the school system when school is out for the summer.

Ten of the system's schools have been under renovation with offices completely moved out and furniture and equipment kept in about 100 storage trailers, he said. He anticipates all work to be completed in time of the start of school.

Olmstead said many people have volunteered for Day One, but that the system is still seeking more. Anyone interested in volunteering can call any of the schools or call Olmstead at (770) 473-2760.

The Day One program is based on a similar program Superintendent Barbara Pulliam conducted when she was the head of the St. Louis Parks, Minn., school system.