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Teachers, students return to crowded classrooms

Posted August 25, 2009 5:07 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2009 6:28 p.m. EDT

— Some traditional-calendar students returned to school on Tuesday to find bigger class sizes and fewer teachers, assistants and electives to choose from.

Last year, Dillard Drive Elementary School teacher Nathan Carter had 19 students in his math class. This year he has 29 students and will likely get more.

“With 29 students in a class there’s hardly any room to sit on the floor and to get around the room because there’s so many desks,” Carter said.

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Carter is among the many teachers in the state dealing with changes after the state Board of Education approved more than $35 million in budget cuts.

“It’s night and day. There’s so much more you can get done with 19 than 29. You can give more attention to the ones who need it, when you have 19 (students),” Carter said.

Dillard Drive Elementary Principal Sylvia Wilkins said the school has seen “about two class sizes more than we were expecting.”

The school system has cut more than 300 teaching assistant positions from its spending plan. Dillard Drive lost four teaching assistants, leaving some teachers unable to do all that they used to.

"It's stressful because it is the beginning of the year and we are kind of short staffed on teaching assistants this year, so the teachers are having to do a little bit more,” said Dillard Drive fourth-grade teacher Hilary Green.

Wilkins said teachers will do what they do best – get creative and find ways to meet the demands on them. “They’re going to be successful,” Wilkins said.

Perdue rides the bus

Gov. Bev Perdue kicked off the official first day of school by riding the school bus with Conn Magnet Elementary School students on Tuesday.

Perdue met students at the bus stop on the corner of Mordecai and Sycamore Streets and accompanied them on their bus ride to the school located at 1220 Brookside Drive.

“It does bring back memories. It’s a cooler bus. My bus was a lot more crowded when I was a kid,” Perdue said.

The governor took a brief tour of the school and welcomed students during their closed-circuit television morning announcements.

Durham school gets new principal

On its first day of classes, Hillside High School, 3727 Fayetteville St., welcomed a new principal.

Hans Lassiter was previously with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction where he served as a high school turnaround consultant for the past year.

Lassiter replaces former principal Earl Pappy, who resigned in June for unknown reasons.

Hillside has struggled with academics. A state judge has threatened for years to shut down the Durham school because of poor student performance.

Counties report enrollment numbers

In Wake County, officials said 140,000 enrolled in classes - an increase of about 2,300 from last year.

Chatham County Schools had 7,516 students on the first day of school this year. The number is about the same as last year’s first day. Officials expect more students to enroll throughout the first 10 days of classes.

In Johnston County, 30,460 students enrolled on the first day – an increase of 569 from last school year.

Enrollment in Wayne County public schools was down slightly compared to last year. A total of 18,116 students attended classes on Tuesday – a 151 decrease from last year’s first-day enrollment. Officials said that enrollment is expected to increase as it did last year. Over the first nine days of classes for the 2008-2009 school year, public schools saw enrollment grow to 19,377 students.

Cumberland County school reopens after fire

Douglas Byrd Middle School, 1616 Ireland Drive in Fayetteville, reopened on Tuesday after suffering damage in a July 1 fire.

The fire destroyed the school gymnasium and spread to the cafeteria, where it caused the roof to cave in. No one was injured in the fire.

Students at the school will use the gymnasium at Douglas Byrd High School and use the cafeteria at Ireland Drive Elementary. The three schools share a campus.

Three teens are charged in the fire that caused $4 million in damage.