A new start for year-round students

Jul. 21, 2014 @ 05:38 PM

Not a single tear was shed in Deborah Jones’ pre-K class at Holt Elementary Language Academy on Monday after her busy 4-year-olds said goodbye to their parents.
The students found Jones’ cache of toys and not a one whimpered when their parents said farewell and headed for the exit, leaving them in Jones’ able care.
“I need to see you smiling,” Jones prodded anxious parents as they left the classroom.
Monday was the first day of class for more than 3,100 students who attend Durham Public Schools’ five year-round schools.
“We have some who are nervous on their first day of school and some who come to get right into it,” Jones said.
Thaxton Banks Jr. got “right into it” the moment he walked into the classroom and spotted all of the playthings at his disposal.
He didn’t have much to say to a visitor, but was chatty with his new classmates and appeared excited about being in school.
Zaniyah Williams, 8, didn’t have any problems talking about her summer.
The confident third-grader said she spent the summer break at the pool, visiting her grandmother and attending a summer camp.
She answered “a little” when asked if she was excited about returning to school.
Zanita Williams, Zaniyah’s mom, walked her daughter to class, excited about a new school year but also a little worried about the transition to third-grade.
“I’m a little scared this year,” Zanita Williams said. “It’s third-grade and EOG’s [state end-of-grade tests] start, so it gets serious now.”
Monday was also the first day at Holt for Amanda Winter, a fifth-grade teacher from the United Kingdom who is working at Holt as part of the VIF International Education cultural exchange program.
“I love this school,” Winter said. “Everyone here has been so welcoming.”
Winter, who hails from Durham, England, said she has also taught in Montgomery, Randolph and Cumberland counties as part of the VIF program.
“I love my life here,” Winter said. “That’s not to say I don’t love my home, but I get to show students here our culture, which they might not otherwise get.”
Winter is one of three teachers from the UK at Holt under the VIF program and they are joined by a fourth teacher from Jamaica. All began three-year visiting teaching stints on Monday.
Holt, a magnet school program, focuses on Global Studies and foreign language. Starting in kindergarten, students have the opportunity to study Mandarin Chinese or Spanish with the goal of becoming conversationally fluent by the end of fifth-grade.
In addition to Holt, Easley and Pearsontown elementary schools, Rogers-Herr Middle School and the School for Creative Studies all opened Monday.
The 30,000 or so students on a traditional school calendar will start classes Aug. 25.