Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2000

report for classes at district’s 14 schools

From left, kindergartner Linzey Reed, first-grader Lashon Oliver and second-grader Monisha Qualls, look out their school bus window before getting off to start the new school year at Redwood Elementary School this morning. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Parents took cameras and video recorders to see off their children at Redwood Elementary School this morning, but the item most in demand was a handkerchief.

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“I cried a lot this morning already,” Lee Martin said as she took 5-year-old Kara to her first day of kindergarten. “She’s really excited, but I’m really sad.”

Kara is among the 9,400 students in the Vicksburg Warren School District beginning the 2000-2001 school year today.

Kara had no problem toting her empty book bag, which seemed nearly as big as she, to the classroom where she had met teachers last week during orientation.

“That’s where I’m going to sit,” Kara told her mother as she pointed to an empty seat.

From there, Kara joined the other 427 students who waited for classes to begin. While a few children cried as they left parents, most of the children talked eagerly with other students while parents took pictures and watched.

Kara’s only concern seemed to be whether she would be allowed to ride home on the big yellow bus.

“She told me this morning not to cry because she was going to have fun,” Lee Martin said. “But as soon as I get in the car I’m going to have to put on my sunglasses.”

Redwood Elementary is one of 14 public schools that started classes today across the county. Porters Chapel Academy and Vicksburg Catholic School also began the semester this morning.

Public school Superintendent Donald Oakes spent his morning visiting schools to ensure that the day began smoothly.

“Well, it seems to be going pretty good,” Oakes said at mid-morning. “It’s been a lot less chaotic than last year.”

Two mega-elementaries were opened last year after five former elementaries scattered around the city and county had been closed.

The district, which employs about 1,150 teachers and staff, will operate on a budget of $53,230,190 this year. About 9,400 students had enrolled to begin school today in the public schools, but Oakes said those numbers are likely to change in the coming weeks. About the same number of students attended the school district last year.

Redwood is the second smallest of the county’s school. Bowmar Elementary has the fewest students, with about 349 beginning classes today.

By contrast, the district’s two mega-schools, Sherman Avenue Elementary and Dana Road Elementary, each has more than 700 students. The two high schools, Vicksburg and Warren Central, enrolled about 1,200 students for the new school year.