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Student ranks swell with new year
otwell 1 jd
Otwell Middle School Principal Steve Miller puts out cones Monday afternoon. - photo by Jim Dean
It may still feel like summer outside, but for Forsyth County’s teachers and students, school is back in session.

“I’m glad to be back, but missing summer already,” said Lambert High School’s Kelli Richardson on Monday.

Richardson and her fellow seniors in the class of 2011 will be the first to graduate Lambert, which opened in August 2009 with only freshmen through junior classes.

Even after more than two decades of teaching, Trisha Evans of Midway Elementary said she is always happy for the first day of school.

This is the first year at the fifth grade level for Evans, who taught fourth grade in 2009-10. She was pleased to see some of the same faces she taught last year, and is up for the challenge of keeping them interested.

“It’s always new and exciting,” she said. “If you do the same things over and over for 22 years, it’s not fun anymore.

“So you have to constantly change and come up with new ideas and new activities to keep the students engaged and have some fun.”

In total, about 35,365 students attended school Monday.

School Superintendent Buster Evans said the district “added a number of new students throughout the summer and even on the first day of school.”

“This enrollment growth will continue over the next few weeks and should slow around Labor Day,” he said.

After juggling 288 buses, some 7,000 stops and 22,000 riders, the school system’s transportation director was pleased with the flow after the first day of classes.

“The traffic is always worst the first day of school,” said Gary Puetz. “We feel like it went very smoothly. We have a few opportunities for improvement, but that’s normal for the first day of school.”

During the first week of any school year, drivers try to find new routes to work or leave early to avoid the rush, said Puetz, adding that it can take a few days to hone the schedules.

“By the end of this week, we should have virtually all our routes updated and ready to go,” he said.

Evans described the opening day of the new school year as “fantastic.”

“It was relatively smooth because we did not open new schools, which allowed consistency for the students and particularly the bus drivers,” he said.

The district opened five schools in August 2009. Monday, however, there was not much new aside from a few classrooms and small additions.

For Richardson, Vijay Rawal and Scott Schlesinger, however, being seniors at Lambert makes this year a little more special.

“We have two years of being the big guys and getting to know each other, and the school does a good job of getting the classes together,” Rawal said.

Added Schlesinger: “We were kind of seniors last year, but it’s kind of cool to have three classes beneath us, and to actually be seniors.”

Richardson was also in the first class to graduate from Sharon Elementary and Riverwatch Middle schools. She’s excited to again be part of an inaugural graduating class before heading off to college.

“It feels kind of cool because nobody else will be able to say that they could do it,” she said.