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Students excited about first day at Clayton's first charter school

By Johnny Jackson

Parents Eric and Ruthie Anderson stayed a while on the Riverdale First United Methodist Church campus after they walked their children to classes for the first time at the Lewis Academy of Excellence. The two registered last spring and until Tuesday home schooled their children.

"They went to bed late last night, and were up before me," said Eric Anderson of his children. "They're excited to be here. The parents show their excitement, too. Parents are making sacrifices to give their children other opportunities."

Anderson walked his eight-year-old son Isiah to his third-grade class while his wife Ruthie accompanied their 10-year-old fifth grade daughter Alejandra to meet her new teacher Gloria Larry.

"It's been great," said Larry. "The students have been absorbing all the information. And they have high expectations for themselves."

Larry, a teacher with 11 years experience, asked her students to start to get to know each other by interviewing their classmates as they heard Ben Tankard's Song of Solomon whisper in the background. Alejandra apparently enjoys mathematics and loves to watch the television show 'Moesha.' And Larry has three children, loves seafood, and graduated from Mississippi State University.

"I just love it," said Patricia Lewis, shuttering with excitement. "I just love these beautiful children."

Lewis, the founder of the Lewis Academy of Excellence, met with Janice Davis and Theresa McDugald of Clayton County Public Schools Tuesday morning.

Lewis said the school received much support from the community, even mentioning organizations that are involved with Hurricane Katrina Emergency Relief. She said the school was asked to enroll three students who were displaced by the natural disaster.

Brenda Lewis is the charter school's educational director and has no relation to the school's founder. The 35-year veteran in education reported that the charter school enrolled 131 students on its first day of operation, about 31 more students than the school expected.

According to Lewis, the school will offer twice-weekly Spanish and daily Reading, Mathematics, Social Studies, Literature, and Physical Education classes for grades kindergarten through five. She said that the school would offer music as soon as they obtain a qualified applicant in music education.

There are 13 teachers per 13 classrooms. Whereas an additional second grade class will be added, and she said students have a two-week grace period before they must wear mandatory school uniforms.

"I'm excited about the uniforms; it makes a difference for me as a parent to be more organized," said Chineitha Kyles. Kyles is a parent to eight-year-old third grader Jervon. As a member of the Air Force, she dresses in uniform daily. She is stationed at Dobbins Air Force Base in Cobb County, but Tuesday, she resigned her son from private school and enrolled him into the charter school after touring the campus.

"I felt like he could get more attention here in the core subjects," Kyles said. "I think it's doable. I'm thinking positive. I think they can make it work. Dr. Lewis is exciting and motivated, and it's made all the difference in my bringing my son here."

There are five Lewis Academy bus routes provided by Samson Trailway in Lovejoy, Riverdale, Rex, Morrow, and Jonesboro. Breakfast and lunch at the school are catered by Diamond Hall, said Dionne Thompson, Lewis Academy board member.

"First day was wonderful, very successful," Thompson said. "We're looking forward to a successful year. There was a phenomenal response from our students. Words really can't describe it, excitement, enthused, happy."