Chelsea Park students greet first day of school

By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter

CHELSEA —  The new school year began on Thursday, Aug 12 for Shelby County Schools and for the district’s schools, the day was spent welcoming students and preparing for the upcoming academic semester. Chelsea Park Elementary School began the day with faculty and staff greeting students and parents as they arrived, with Principal Mary Anderson leading the welcome committee.

“Today has been great. Our staff, teachers and students seemed so excited to be coming back. This morning, I made my rounds to every classroom to welcome students and introduce myself,” Anderson said.

Anderson has participated in back-to-school festivities throughout her entire 17-year career as an educator, but today was especially noteworthy as she officially began this year as the new principal for Chelsea Park Elementary School.

However, Anderson said preparation for her new position began well before Thursday, adding that much of her summer was filled with finalizing class rosters, assigning students to classes as well as hiring new staff.

“As a principal, I work 12 months out of the year, and a lot that goes on behind the scenes. I just love seeing the students’ excitement. It’s just so heart-warming to see, especially when we worked so hard to prepare for this day” she said.

Around 888 students ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade are expected to begin classes at the school this week. As part of the SCS reopening plan, a staggered starting schedule is currently implemented due to school occupancy constraints relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first two days of school will be staggered for both traditional and virtual students.

Students with a last name starting with A-J started on Thursday, Aug. 12 while students with a last name starting with K-Z will begin classes on Friday, Aug. 13.

The SCS reopening plan for the 2021-2022 school year includes in-person as well as virtual instruction options. However, Anderson said SCS is currently providing only in-person classes for elementary students.

“We are only offering traditional in-person instruction. There is not a virtual option. So all students in grades K through fifth in Shelby County that are enrolled with us will be in our buildings learning in-person,” Anderson said.

All in-person students will return to campus on Monday, Aug. 16. ,and the wearing of masks is optional.

Anderson said the first two days of school will be primarily dedicated to class orientation, with students building relationships with classmates and teachers, reviewing routines and procedures as well as conducting building tours.

“Teachers will start giving them their workbooks and their materials as well as learning how to use the Chromebooks that they have at school and will start off with instructions next week,” she said.

This time of the year is also extremely busy for teachers as well, Anderson said, with faculty and staff preparing for classes as early as Monday. Many teachers even returned to school weeks prior to begin decorating their classrooms and planning lessons in anticipation for today.

For kindergarten teacher Shelly Stallings, this week marks her eighth year teaching and described a new semester as her favorite time of the year.

“I’m thrilled to be back with the students. I love the beginning of the year and getting to know the students, particularly their personalities. Today has been great,” she said.

Much of her passion for the career stems from the impact that her own teachers impressed upon her growing up.

“I just always knew that I wanted to be a teacher. My third grade teacher was very influential in my life. She was just so kind and so caring, and she really, truly cared for her students. She was wonderful ,and I was like, I want to be that kind of teacher,” Stallings said.

Stallings said she is most looking forward to rekindling her relationship with colleagues and students as the new year progresses.

“Being back with the other teachers and staff provides such a great sense of community and I want to convey that feeling of community in the classroom as well because in a sense we are with these children eight hours a day. So essentially we become a class family,” Stallings said.