Livingston Parish welcomes students back to school

It’s 7 a.m. on Friday, but Bryan Wax has already been at Denham Springs Junior High School for an hour.

Wax, second-year principal at the school, says he usually gets to campus around 7 a.m. but arrived early Friday for the beginning of the school year in Livingston Parish.

Sporting a light purple shirt and dark purple tie for the school’s colors, Wax tidied up his office before heading outside for one of the biggest parts of the day — student drop-off.

He stood outside for about a half an hour, helping direct the cars streaming in and out and guiding wide-eyed students who were wondering where to go.

All the while, Wax sported a smile representative of the enthusiasm on the first day.

“You get to see the seventh-graders grow up a little bit over the summer, and you get to see those sixth-graders come in and, they’re just so innocent when they come in,” he said.

Families and children in Livingston Parish on Friday went through a ritual that is common but still changes a little bit each year — the first day of school.

For some students and teachers, it’s a tradition all too familiar at an old school. For others, it’s an entirely new day, traveling to a new campus for the first time.

The day went off without any major glitches, Livingston Parish School Superintendent John Watson said.

“We got them all to school,” he said with a laugh.

The school system projected a first-day enrollment of 25,565, Watson said, up about 350 students from a year ago.

The school system may have to add a few teachers at some schools to make up for the increase, but that is to be expected, he said.

“Obviously, the kids are excited, but I think our faculty and staff, having visited with them the last several days, are excited about the new school year,” Watson said.

Amy Tuminello, of Denham Springs, drove her son, sixth-grader Daniel Dell, to Denham Springs Junior High. Her husband dropped off her stepdaughter, seventh-grader Allison Tuminello, minutes later.

Dell attended Eastside Elementary School a year ago, Amy Tuminello said.

Tuminello said Dell had jitters about the new school but was excited.

“He’s starting a new chapter in his life — leaving elementary school,” she said.

Once students arrived, they milled about in the school’s courtyard while waiting to receive their schedules. They were later directed inside to their first classroom.

Students were introduced to the school’s policies and to their teachers.

Baylie Annison, a first-year sixth-grade math teacher at Denham Springs Junior High, began her first-hour class by taking attendance.

She instructed her students to fill out a “check out” card — a card with all their parents’ or guardians’ contact information. After a bit more housekeeping, Annison gave a bit of reassurance to her students.

“Everybody take a deep breath,” Annison said. “Y’all are going to make it.”

Annison, like her sixth-graders, is new to the school — and to the teaching profession itself. She just graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in May.

“I’m so excited. I couldn’t sleep last night,” Annison said. “I wanted to meet all of them this morning.”

For Pauline Temple, a veteran seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher, the first day has become routine.

She started her third-hour class by checking in students at front door.

She informed students of an assignment as soon as they walked in: Write down a few sentences introducing themselves and what they like or dislike about math.

Temple assured students the class would go by quickly.

“You know I like to work you bell to bell,” she says to her students.

Temple has been a math teacher at Denham Springs Junior High for the last six years. She used to work in retail before deciding she wanted to become a teacher.

Temple said she fully understands what teachers like Annison go through on the first day, describing it as an “overwhelming panic.”

“You get your basics in college. They teach you theories. They teach you methods,” Temple said. “But when you close that classroom door, you are on your own and you’re supposed to know it all. And that’s what you want the kids to think.”