Leader staff writer
The Pulaski County Special School District had a first day total of 16,403 students Monday, almost 200 less than it educated two years ago. But enrollment in several Sherwood schools was hundreds more than that of their Jacksonville counterparts.
The district didn’t do a first-day count last year because of online-school issues, said Deborah Roush, PCSSD director of communications. The count for the 2009-10 school year was 16,631.
The principals of each school submitted the first-day counts.
PCSSD elementary schools welcomed 8,956 students on the first day. There were 713 attending Clinton Elementary School, followed by 529 at Oakbrook, 430 at Pinewood, 419 at Murrell Taylor, 396 at Warren Dupree, 384 at Sylvan Hills, 383 at Tolleson, 338 at Sherwood, 321 at Bayou Meto, 308 at Cato, 269 at Arnold Drive, 193 at Harris and 144 at Adkins.
PCSSD secondary schools had 7,447 students for the first day.
Sylvan Hills Middle School welcomed 745, followed by Jacksonville Middle with 462 and Northwood with 438.
Sylvan Hills High School saw 778, followed by Jacksonville with 673 and North Pulaski with 652.
Aside from the state takeover, PCSSD schools saw another change this year as Jacksonville Elementary School closed down and its students were shipped to four other nearby elementary schools — Tolleson, Murrell Taylor, Pinewood and Warren Dupree.
The former principal of the closed school, Sonja Whitfield, took over as principal at Tolleson. She said the transition for students, teachers and staff has gone well.
“We’re trying to be forward-thinking to accommodate the children,” she said. Whitfield added that parents involved with Jacksonville Elementary’s parent-student organization were split up into different schools when it closed. Tolleson’s parent-teacher association has been very supportive throughout the transition, she said.
Samantha Runyon, now a media specialist for Jacksonville Middle School, said she and another teacher founded Jacksonville Elementary’s PTO but were unsuccessful at getting parents actively involved. She added she hopes that the new school will have involved parents.
She said transportation problems have been typical compared to previous school years. Many parents drive their children to school for the first week and then have them take the bus later, so dismissal is a common issue schools have to work through on the first few weeks of classes.
“We still have a few kinks to work out,” Whitfield said. “As challenges arrive, we make plans.”
Several students walked to Jacksonville Elementary School, but she said she hadn’t heard about any problems with parents getting alternative transportation.
Pinewood Principal Denise Rankin agreed with Whitfield. “Everything has meshed beautifully,” she said.
Rankin added that the school was happy to have the additional students, especially because they had anticipated a significant decrease in enrollment caused by students transferring to charter schools.
She said Pinewood got about 40 students from the closed elementary and was up in student enrollment.
Taylor Elementary Principal Jackie Smith said the children have adjusted well to the move, although some of the students expected haven’t arrived at Taylor yet and transportation is something that needs work.
Carlisle School District added 12 students, and new Superintendent Jason Clark, to its ranks and saw the completion of three construction projects of the 2011-12 school year.
The district renovated a former science facility into a pre-kindergarten facility. New bathrooms were installed at Carlisle Elementary and a machinery room was added to Carlisle High School’s agriculture shop. The room will house equipment, such as the tools used when the students learn welding. All the construction was completed over the summer months, Clark said.
Clark began working for the district in July. He had been superintendent of the Mount Vernon-Enola School District.
New at Carlisle High School are teacher Alicia Williams, who will also serve at the elementary school; teacher Bradley Corbit, cafeteria manager Sheree Chandler, cafeteria worker Shirley Bryant, librarian Barbara Bush, teacher and coach Mark Lewis and teacher Yvette Green.
Carlisle Elementary School added kindergarten aide Rebecca St. Clair, teacher Carla Hanks and teacher Wendy Lewis. Jennifer Wolfe was also hired as a preschool aide.
Preliminary enrollment in Carlisle schools is 390 for the elementary school and 360 for the high school, Clark said.