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Back to school: County prepares for new year of learning

In Washington County last week, 8,800 students got up early, donned their best — or most casual — clothes, grabbed a backpack and headed out to the bus stop.
It was the launch of another school year. And while the day often has all the excitement of a new beginning, it also has plenty of angst to carry it through.
“Separation anxiety is the biggest thing,” said Rhonda Cartwright, a Lamar School teacher who has been guiding kindergarten students for 20 years. Children, she said, have to get used to being away from their parents, and “moms and dads have to get used to not having them at home.”
That anxiety is not limited to the young. At both David Crockett and Daniel Boone high schools, counselors, teachers and staff must be ready and able to step in to ease transition in those first few weeks.
“If you had 30 kids and you’re coming to a class with 300 freshmen, that’s a big jump,” said Lorie McCorkle, a counselor at Crockett.
The greatest fear she encounters, she said, is the fear of getting lost. “That’s a huge one,” McCorkle said. “That and the challenge of making friends.”
Teachers — and school counselors — are often the ones on the front lines crucial in making the entire school experience a positive one, according to Director of Schools Ron Dykes, and he tries to ensure that each staff member is aware of his or her impact.
“The whole point this year (during early staff workshops) was the difference a teacher can make in every child,” Dykes said.
“It is incumbent upon them to reach out to every child.”
At the high school, McCorkle said, staff are working to make each student feel welcome and encouraged as they begin this new phase in their lives, whether in a new school or at a new grade level.
Kindergarten teachers are helping to ease the transition by staggering attendance at the beginning of the year for students not used to being in school every day.
And principals across the county continue to remind students that education can be fun.
“It’s a celebration,” said DCHS Principal Peggy Wright, who helped oversee Crockett’s first 5K Glow Run as a back-to-school kickoff last week. “We’ve had a great start, and everyone seems to be excited about the new school year.”