Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Smooth First Day of Class as Hickman, Ruskin Students Combine

By Mary Kay Morrow
“Completely uneventful,” proclaimed Ruskin High School Principal Chad Ryerson of the first official half-day of the 2010-11 school year last Thursday.
It was the first day that former rival student bodies of Ruskin and Hickman Mills High Schools attended classes together. Ruskin’s 1,300 tenth, eleventh, and twelfth-grade students marked the occasion by entering the school through doors hand-painted with inspirational words such as “unity” and “inspiration,” peace signs, and a globe.
Asked how the first day had gone, some seniors said,” It’s cool.”
Last February, the board decided to consolidate the district’s two high schools into one beginning with the 2010-11 academic year. The decision was an emotional one for many students, parents, and teachers. Hickman Mills closed its doors as a high school at the end of last year and reopened last week as the district’s junior high school for grades eight and nine.
Through focus groups conducted this spring, security was identified as a major concern. As a response, metal detectors have been installed at secondary schools where students must wear student ID badges at all times.Elementary schools have front-door cameras, intercoms, and magnetic door releases.
Schools will be locked down during school hours.  Visitors will be required to enter only through front doors, sign in, consent to searches, surrender photo identification, and wear “visitor” badges during their visit.
New procedures promise to be strictly enforced.
Aside from a few minor snafus, Thursday was the best opening day Ryerson said he’s seen in years. 
“Everything went off fantastic,” Ryerson said - despite a broken intercom that caused the Principal to use a two-way radio to direct hallway and parking lot traffic throughout the first day.
An ambulance and fire truck caused a momentary scare when they roared into the driveway during dismissal.  A girl had passed out.
“She’s alright,” said emergency personnel, exiting the building a short while later.
In other areas of the district, the first day of school got a thumbs-up as well.
Admitting a few glitches, Smith-Hale Middle School Principal Angela McConico complimented her staff, parents and students for wonderful support during the transition.
A handful of bus problems had to be worked out.  One bus reportedly broke down.  Some children weren’t picked up. And there was some confusion regarding RHS and Hickman Mills Junior High students riding the bus together.
“In the morning, HMJHS students will be taken to school first and the bus will then continue to RHS,” clarified district official John Baccala. “In the afternoon, busses will take HMJHS students to Ruskin first and then home. Consolidating routes was the best solution, both economically and logistically.”
Charmaine Lewis, parent of a third- and twelfth-grader, pleaded to let her daughter stay at Truman Elementary where the district mistakenly assigned her.
“This won’t cost a dime.  I’ll drive her,” Lewis said.  “I’m just asking the board to allow the district’s mistake to continue” rather than having to move her daughter to Johnson after having started out at Truman where she’s already excited about her teacher and classmates.
Dr. Williams said a final seat-count is not yet available due to some families keeping students at home until after Labor Day.
“Many parents have asked for transfers and have the right to request changes up until August 20,” Dr. Williams said. 
“We have to make sure we have space to accommodate kids at the schools they’ve requested before making those changes.”

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