Schools welcome students back for start of new year

Stacey Mayeur gently wiped the steady stream of tears rolling down her son’s face as she carried him Thursday to the front door of Tucker Memorial Elementary School for his first day of the 2014-15 school year.

As Noah Mayeur kept a tight grip on his mother, the 7-year-old muttered “no.”

Somehow, the youngster survived the day.

While teachers and staff saw tears here and there from anxious students, the first day of classes in Livingston and Tangipahoa parishes ran smoothly.

As she scurried around the front office fielding questions from eager — and anxious — parents, Tucker Elementary Principal Amber Gardner said the opening day “was probably the smoothest first day we’ve had.”

Teachers at Tucker spent most of the first hour of the school day greeting students and parents at both carpool and bus stations, helping them find classrooms and “tagging” students with their mode of transportation home, said Gardner, the former Tucker Elementary student, teacher and now principal.

Across the street at Ponchatoula Junior High, Abby Portier, 13, stepped off the bus eager to start the new school year.

“It think it’s great,” Abby said. “I love school.”

Tangipahoa Parish public schools Superintendent Mark Kolwe spent Thursday on the south end of the parish and Friday on the northern end.

“We had a few minor bus issues but nothing major,” Kolwe said, adding that a few of the schools’ air conditioners had to be repaired. Workers are completing a last-minute roof replacement job on a portion of Independence High School, but that “shouldn’t have any impact on classes,” Kolwe said, adding that the work will be done after school lets out.

While official totals haven’t yet been tallied, Kolwe said he’s confident enrollment counts are up from last year. Some of the schools where Kolwe saw significant first-day enrollment growth are Hammond High School, Hammond Westside, Champ Cooper and Loranger.

In Livingston Parish, schools welcomed more than 25,700 students Thursday, an increase of about 130 over last year’s first-day enrollment, Superintendent John Watson said.

Those numbers typically increase, even into September, as more students are enrolled, he said.

“We also don’t have any kindergartners on our campuses yet. Many more typically register once classes start,” Watson said.

The district has roughly 2,000 kindergartners enrolled thus far, he said.

Construction was ongoing on multiple campuses Thursday, but the Livingston district had classrooms ready for every school, Watson said.

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of work being done this summer,” School Board member Buddy Mincey said. “It was a crunch at the end with some of the projects cutting it close, but I want to thank all involved for getting it done.”