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First day of school in Forsyth: 2 new schools open, enrollment expected to exceed 46,000
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Scenes from Brandywine Elementary on the first day of school. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH COUNTY -- As students flowed into the halls that still smelled like new paint unaffected by lunches, crayons and 6-year-old energy, many of Forsyth’s first Badgers were calm and ready to get to class. Some needed guidance.

“Excuse me, do you know where second grade is?” one girl asked, as a teacher stationed in the halls to welcome students to Brandywine Elementary School on the first day of class Thursday pointed her in the right direction.

She was one of 45,933 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who were enrolled in one of Forsyth County’s 37 brick-and-mortar public schools after August 4 and among the first students to attend Brandywine, which opened this year to become the district’s 21st elementary school.

With Brandywine and DeSana Middle School, which also opened on Thursday for the first time, officials have predicted enrollment to top 46,000, according to Jennifer Caracciolo, spokeswoman for system.

“We still had over 300 [registration] appointments and will continue to have no-shows,” Caracciolo said. “Enrollment should even out by the end of next week.”

She said there were no snags in the operation of the first day other than “expected transportation delays,” which typically take a few days to normalize.

“The last bus dropped off at 6:15 p.m. Times will continue to increase throughout next week [when] the last drop off time will be by 5:30 p.m.,” she said.

The first day of school, especially for kindergarteners, is typically spent with introductions and games to get the kids acclimated to their classmates and surroundings.

“The day goes by quickly, once you add lunch and specials,” said Jill McDaniel, a kindergarten teacher at the school on Martin Drive in southwest Forsyth.

McDaniel, who just began her first year in Forsyth County Schools after 18 in Fulton County, said she enjoys watching her students progress throughout the year.

“Just month to month, academically and socially, and just getting to know the parents, the families in the building,” she said. “They’re quiet now, but that’s short. This is typical of the first day for kindergarten.”

She said she wanted to transfer to Forsyth County because she lives here and wants her kids to go to school here.

“We have several teachers [at Brandywine] that have already been in the county that are coming here and several that have been out of the county, and it’s their first year here,” she said. “Everybody’s been very welcoming, sharing items and just helpful from day one.

“It’s a great community. A great group.”

Excitement ran amuck in all teachers, not just those who were in the district for the first time.

“I’m excited about 22 new faces, a new school, new teachers, new friends,” said Sharla Woodring, who teaches second grade at Brandywine.

After teaching second grade in Forsyth County for 19 years – most recently coming from Settles Bridge Elementary School – Woodring said she likes that everyone at Brandywine is “coming from different places, making new friends.”

She said second grade was her favorite grade in school, so teaching it was a natural progression.

“Forsyth County is so innovative. We’re on the cutting edge of new technology. As you can see in our classroom, everything is wireless. We have an active board,” Woodring said. “I feel like that is the way that not only our county is going, but the world is going. Teaching 7-year-olds, what better way to get them on their way?”

Badger spirit shined from both the teachers and the administration.

“We have a great group of kids coming from Big Creek, Shiloh [Point] and Midway [elementary schools], and of course all the new registers, so we’re super excited to bring three different schools together in one,” Principal Todd Smith said.

Smith, who was principal at Midway last year and has also served at Sharon and Settles Bridge elementary schools, said he wants to instill a welcoming and inviting environment at the district’s newest elementary school.

“Coming from Midway, we were recognized there as a Family Friendly School award winner in the state of Georgia, and some of the components we had at Midway we hope to bring to Brandywine,” he said, “because we definitely want this to be a culture where kids are not afraid to ask questions, they’re not afraid to just express themselves. Because we want it to be a fun environment, and elementary school should be fun.”

Each school in Forsyth County is unique, he said, but “they’re all good.”

“Well, we are the Badgers, and there aren’t too many Badgers out there, I think you’ll find if you do some research, so I think we have a unique mascot if you want to say,” he said. “I think, again, what’s going to set us apart is hopefully when you came in and when parents come in you see that it’s a warm and inviting environment and, again, just a great place for kids to learn.”