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Open house kicks off school year

Teachers meet with their students for the first time during open house Thursday at Jonesboro Middle School. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

Teachers meet with their students for the first time during open house Thursday at Jonesboro Middle School. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Jonesboro Middle School Principal Dr. Lisa Hightower, left, and school safety Officer Jamila Rembert speak to parents during the school’s open house event Thursday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

JONESBORO — A petite, soft-spoken girl tapped her principal on the shoulder and began whispering something in her ear.

They were amid a large “open house” crowd at Jonesboro Middle School, but the student felt comfortable enough to approach Dr. Lisa Hightower.

Hightower could not recall the girl’s name, but she remembered her face from earlier in the day.

“She was one of our sixth-graders at Bear Camp this morning,” said Hightower.

The camp, named after Jonesboro’s mascot, is an annual orientation for rising sixth-graders.

For two hours teachers dressed in the school colors, red and black, guided the students through what they can expect.

The students learned how to walk the broader hallways without getting tripped up or lost. They figured out how to turn the combination locks on their lockers and where to go during lunch and recess. And they found the media center, gymnasium and athletic fields for the first time.

Thursday afternoon, thousands more parents and students turned out to schools throughout Clayton County as part of the annual back-to-school open house event.

“Going into the new school year, the most important thing for parents to keep in mind is we need them involved in the school,” Hightower said. “They can do that by knowing what’s going on with their (students’) classwork and homework.”

She said volunteering at school functions also helps because it demonstrates to students how important education is if parents are willing to devote their time to it.

“We need their partnership,” she said.

Hightower greeted parents and encouraged them to participate in homeroom team meetings, where parents learned about new programs and testing and grading practices.

She stopped by Althea Louis’ sixth-grade classroom, where dozens of parents and students were sitting and standing in the glow of an overhead projector.

Louis gave them a presentation on the school curriculum and course offerings and answered questions they had about the new school year.

Outside the classroom, Hightower found a familiar face among those that disappeared into the crowded hallway.

Parent Amanda Leonard was excited about the new school year.

Her twin daughters, Chante and Chantel, 13, are entering the eighth grade at Jonesboro. “I’m excited to find out who their teachers are and meet them,” said Leonard.

The principal also encountered Officer Jamila Rembert of the district’s newly-formed school safety and security department.

Rembert volunteered to take part in the open house. She said it was a way to introduce herself to the school community, parents and students, alike.

“It could be the last time they see me like this,” said Rembert.

She was dressed in a dark pants suit with silver hoop earrings and bracelet accessories Thursday but will don the department-issue uniform Monday, the first day of classes for Clayton County Public Schools.