Enrollment up as PHS readies for new year

Pelham High School opened its doors to a new freshman class of more than 400 kids at Camp Pelham Friday, as the school will begin the 2009-10 school year Thursday with more than 1,600 students.

This year’s enrollment is up by more than at least 110 students from last year.

Getting acclimated to an environment of that many students can often be difficult, which is why former teacher Betty Shivers brainstormed the idea of Camp Pelham seven years ago.

“That is a huge transition for a child going from middle school to high school,” said Pelham High School Principal Bob Lavett. “We’re trying to bridge that gap.”

Patterned after many college orientations, Camp Pelham features a get-to-know-Pelham session, a tour, a free T-shirt, lunch and a pep rally, where the incoming freshmen learn the school’s fight song, alma mater, cheers and traditions.

Allowing the freshmen to tour the campus and learn about the school’s traditions, faculty and extra-curricular activities before the first day of school, Lavett said, is advantageous.

“They will hit the ground running just like a student who’s been here for two or three years,” Lavett said. “It makes them more functional, and they can start putting names to faces.”

Freshman honors and advanced English teacher Rebecca Burnett, who now heads up Camp Pelham, said the orientation is a huge help in making sure the freshman are ready for what high school entails.

“It only helps,” Burnett said of Camp Pelham. “Getting them acclimated before the first day of school helps ease the transition.”

In addition to the orientation and fun activities at Camp Pelham, several awards were passed out at the end of the day to eight individuals who exemplified the Panther spirit.

The Betty Shivers Award, named for the former teacher and given to the top female at Camp Pelham, was awarded to Alli Pitts, while the Bobby Hayes Award, named for the former mayor and given to the top male, was awarded to Zach Martin.

The Panther Awards, given to the top six students who exemplify the best attitude and cooperation, were awarded to Brittany Barker, Chase Brashear, Rachael Krebs, Lili Crosby, Nicole Frank and Jordan Kramer.

And while this year’s class of more than 400 freshmen could push PHS enrollment to as high as 1,625, Lavett knows that it will be future Camp Pelham classes that will make the school one of the largest in the state.

“This will be the last year we’ll have less than 400 seniors,” Lavett said. “There’s a huge wave coming. We’re not through yet.”