Best’ first day comes for 8,700 students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 5, 2004

Senior Kenneth Conley, top, searches for his name as he tries to figure out which is his homeroom at Vicksburg High School this morning, the first day of the new school year. (Brian LodenThe Vicksburg Post)

[8/5/04]About five years ago, Jeffrey Wilburn Jr. was born, weighing 3 pounds. Doctors gave his mother little hope, but today he started school along with 8,700 others in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“He’s come a long way,” said his mother, Veronica Thomas, as Jeffrey stood between her and his father, Jeffrey Wilburn Sr., and watched other children file into the cafeteria at Dana Road. “He was a preemie. They said he wouldn’t make it, but here he is.”

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Jeffrey, who will turn 5 a week from today and is 10 times his birth weight, was eager to begin kindergarten. Wearing brand-new white tennis shoes, khaki shorts, a belt and a green polo shirt, all prescribed in dress code, Jeffrey appeared ready for anything.

“I have SpongeBob, right here,” he said, displaying his SpongeBob SquarePants backpack, towel and pillow.

He lives near the megaschool that houses the elementary school and Vicksburg Intermediate. Thomas said they drove by the school every day this week, and Jeffrey would ask her to stop and pull in the parking lot to show him the school. He was most excited about lunch.

A few others were not as happy to leave their summer break behind.

Jacob Richardson arrived at Dana Road early this morning with his mother, Cindy Richardson.

“He’s a little grouchy this morning,” she said.

And Jacob, 6, who began first-grade this morning said his favorite part of school is recess.

Administrators lined up to greet parents and children.

Judy Monroe, Dana Road principal, reported things were going off without a hitch as about 634 youngsters filed in.

“This is the best day of the year,” said Superintendent James Price as he helped students out of their parents’ cars. “Look at these smiling faces; they’re ready to go.”

As one student hopped out of a truck, a green bow fell out of her hair. The superintendent of education tried, but proved no good at helping get the bow back in place.

Price said 123 buses rolled this morning, about five fewer than normal as part of a cost-saving measure the superintendent mandated because of shortages from the state in the district’s budget.

Each bus run costs about $28,000 annually.

Price said administrators ensured that buses were filled to capacity and that routes did not overlap.

Backed up and slowed traffic was a problem at Sherman Avenue, where vehicles spilled onto nearby U.S. 61, but law enforcement did not expect that to be a continuing problem.

“The first week of school is usually the most hectic for traffic because many parents are driving their children to school the first few days, and, after that, most of the students will be riding buses,” Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said, whose deputies directed traffic at schools in the county. “We ask the public to be patient and aware of the traffic around the schools.”

The 2004-2005 school year marks the last for the School Choice method of assigning students to elementaries, which began five years ago and allowed parents to choose one of three schools in North and South zones.

The plan has not worked well for some.

Esparanda Crump, who is the parent of two children had to visit two schools this morning.

Her son, Akeem Johnson, 11, is a sixth-grader at Vicksburg Intermediate and her daughter, Tiandria Coleman, 9, is a fourth-grader at South Park.

“I dropped him off first because he’s older, and she’s more nervous than he is,” Crump said, who tried to enroll both of her children in the same school this year.

“I guess they were full,” she said of why her daughter may not have made the cut at Dana Road.

A community school plan goes into effect next fall, meaning most elementary students will attend the school closest to their homes.