County schools begin year

By Julie Fann
star staff
jfann@starhq.com

  Reanna McClure is an enthusiastic second grader and a new student this year at Happy Valley Elementary School. On the first day for Carter County schools Thursday, Reanna said she's excited about learning.
  "I'm excited about learning new songs and learning new words and rules," she said. Her teacher, Edie Street, began the school day asking students to draw their full self-portrait, a project she said she often uses to begin the school year. Afterward, the student portraits "hold hands" outside the school around the flag pole and declare the new year in solidarity.
  "They enjoy it, and it's a positive 'first day' memory," Street said.
  For second grader Olivia Evans, starting school isn't easy because her mother has been hospitalized with a serious illness. Olivia said she is nervous, and her thoughts were focused more on her family than on school. "I'm excited about seeing my mom when I get home. She just got out of the hospital last night," she said.
  Dale Potter, who has been the principal at Happy Valley Elementary for the past two years, said his goal is to make the school the best possible place for children to learn. "I am very excited. We have excellent faculty, and we're ready to get started this year," he said.
  HVE students begin the school day 20 minutes later this year than they did last year. Students arrive at 7:50 a.m., and class begins at 8 a.m. "Parents need to know that our doors will not open until 7:05 for early drop-off. I know it's an inconvenience, but with the later start time that's all we can do," Potter said.
  All teachers at the school rotate to work during early drop-off, and three teachers are at the school during the hour before the day begins. Students can either eat breakfast in the cafeteria or sit in the gym and talk to their peers during that time. Potter said nearly half of his students are brought to the school by their parents instead of riding the bus.
  During the summer, various volunteers worked to complete projects on the building, which included painting the first grade hallway and the cafeteria. Potter said Coy Ledford, whose child is a fourth-grader, volunteered much of his time and accomplished most of the work.
  Happy Valley Elementary also has an after-school program that extends from the end of the school day to 6 p.m.