OCEAN — There may have been a few first day jitters, but it was hard to tell by the smiles and excitement of county students as they reported Monday for the opening day of the 2019-20 school year.

“I’m excited but a little nervous,” Bogue Sound Elementary School first grade student Adelynn Diefenbach said as she joined thousands of other county students and parents enter school doors Monday.

Beaufort Elementary School third grade student Cole Cape reported similar feelings as he completed a writing exercise, “My First Day Jitters.”

“It was wonderful, but I felt nervous and excited at the same time,” Cole said.

The two were among 7,980 county students who reported to classrooms for the first day of the school year. School officials expect that number to increase in the next couple of weeks as late enrollments come in, according to Superintendent Mat Bottoms.

Last year the school system ended the year with an enrollment of 8,149.

Mr. Bottoms said the opening of the 2019-20 year went smoothly.

“We are off to a great start. Our school staff members were well prepared and we had a great instructional beginning to the school year,” Mr. Bottoms said. “This is an exciting time for students, staff members and families, and we are all energized about the new year of learning ahead.”

Mr. Bottoms encouraged parents and guardians “to partner with teachers and school staff members because it takes everyone working together to provide the very best education for our children. What takes place in the classrooms each day needs to be reinforced at home with homework help, with reading time and with discussion.”

The superintendent also reminded the public to watch out for buses and school-related traffic.

“The traffic flow around schools is always slow during the first week or two of the new school year. We urge motorists to be cautious and we urge parents to utilize the bus service provided for children,” he said.

BSES parents expressed enthusiasm for beginning a new school year as they dropped off their children.

“I love it. I really get excited for them,” parent Jeremy Hart said as he dropped off his two daughters. “I came to this school, too.”

Principals and teachers were also excited.

BSES first grade teacher Caroline Collins said, “I was nervous and excited at the same time, probably like many of my students. This is my first year teaching at Bogue Sound. I taught at Newport Elementary (School) last year, so this is all new for me, too.”

BSES Principal Jenny Bell said she looks forward each year to opening day.

“We are so excited. We have been planning since the kids left back in June,” Ms. Bell said.

BES Principal Karen Wood said, “The night before the opening of school is always like Christmas Eve for me. It’s hard to sleep and I can’t wait to see the students. It’s like the school halls come back to life. The children remind us of why we are here everyday and it helps us stay grounded.”

With Monday being the first day of a new program that provides free breakfast and lunch to elementary and middle school students, school officials said the new initiative seemed to go smoothly, as well.

“Like anything new, there will be a few kinks to work out, but I know students and parents are very happy to have the breakfast and lunch available to them,” Ms. Wood said.

Ms. Bell agreed.

“We’re trying to make sure parents know what will be served every day because it’s different than in the past,” Ms. Bell said.

Breakfasts are served in classrooms each morning, with lunches served in the cafeteria. In Ms. Collins’ class, serving breakfast appeared to go off without a hitch.

She asked each child if they wanted a sausage biscuit, orange juice and milk. Children who wanted breakfast raised their hands, and it was brought to them.

Some students told the teacher they had already eaten breakfast, while others gobbled down their biscuit and drank their beverages.

Ms. Collins said she was glad to see the free breakfast and lunch program offered.

“I think it’s a great program,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to feed them and make sure they’re not hungry at school. I especially like the breakfast because I had kids last year that didn’t get breakfast and by lunch time they were starving.”

Ms. Collins added that making sure children have a breakfast and lunch is an important part of the educational process.

“When a child doesn’t have to fight for the basic needs, they absolutely will learn better,” she said.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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