Crawford County students made it to their first day of school and back home safely with no major issues, superintendents said.
Area students had their first day of school this week, and while several school districts had new buses or changes in traffic flows, superintendents said the school day went smoothly.
Alma, Cedarville, Mountainburg and Mulberry-Pleasant View school districts held their first day of school on Monday. Van Buren School District’s first day of school was Wednesday.
Alma saw the biggest changes in first day traffic with the recent opening of the Arkansas 162 expansion, which runs from the intersection of East Main and Henry streets north to U.S. 64.
“It required a lot of changes for our bus routes and lots of changes for our parents in cars, but it settled down,” Alma School District Superintendent David Woolly said. “It smoothed out much quicker than I thought it would.”
Woolly said the newly opened street met expectations by alleviating some traffic issues and allowing quicker access between the high school downtown and the schools on U.S. 64.
“It turned out to be just a wonderful, positive change,” Woolly said.
Van Buren School District also had a smooth first day of school, said assistant superintendent Brian Summerhill.
“Everybody got to school safely (and) got home safely,” Summerhill said. “There was a lot of excitement going on. It was a great first day.”
At Van Buren schools, Van Buren police officers were at every campus to open doors and greet students and parents, Summerhill said.
In addition to the school resource officers, Van Buren Police Chief Jamie Hammond provided officers to greet students at schools not assigned an SRO that day, Summerhill said.
“It was nice to go to a school and see police officers greeting kids just because they know it’s an important day for them,” Summerhill said.
Also greeting Van Buren students was the 2017 Arkansas Teacher of the Year Courtney Cochran, who teaches for VBSD, and Teresa Rambo, and education specialist with the Arkansas Department of Education.
“It’s always kind of neat to see everyone come together to celebrate the first day of school,” Summerhill said.
Superintendents Kerry Schneider with Cedarville School District, Dennis Copeland with Mountainburg School District and Lonnie Myers with Mulberry-Pleasant View School District also saw few issues on the first day of school, they said.
“There’s always a little traffic etiquette we have to learn with the first day of school, but everything went very smoothly,” Copeland said.
For Myers, the only issue is that the air-conditioning installation in the gymnasium is not yet complete, but should be finished in a few weeks, he said.
In Cedarville, all school programs - including those before and after school - were “up and running” on the first day of school, Schneider said.
“It seemed to be a good first day,” Schneider said.
School districts have not yet made final tallies of enrollment for the first semester of school, but superintendents provided rough estimations of what they expect to see.
Enrollment is looking up in Alma, Woolly said. He is expecting an increase of about 75 students, he said.
Mulberry-Pleasant View also is looking at a possible enrollment increase, Myers said. There were 389 students in the first week of school, when the district ended last year with 363, Myers said.
“That’s a 7 percent increase,” Myers said. “That’s real positive.”
Attendance at VBSD is “holding steady,” Summerhill said, while Cedarville and Mountainburg are looking at possible slight decreases, superintendents said.
Several schools had new buses on routes this year. VBSD has 13 new buses in its fleet, while ASD has seven new buses and is considering the purchase of four more.
Cedarville, Mountainburg and Mulberry-Pleasant View each received Enhanced Transportation Funding of about $30,000 and spent the money in different ways.
Cedarville purchased two used mini-buses with wheelchair lifts, which Schneider said will serve several different purposes. Mountainburg purchased two used buses, Copeland said, and Mulberry-Pleasant View is leasing two new buses, Myers said.
A video of VBSD’s first day of school can be found on the district’s Facebook page.