New school year off to smooth start in Chelsea

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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By EMILY SPARACINO | Special to the Reporter

CHELSEA – The start of the 2023-2024 school year has brought excitement to many Shelby County schools, including those in Chelsea.

At Chelsea Park and Forest Oaks elementary schools, administrators and teachers were eager to welcome students back after a productive summer.

Mary Anderson, who has started her third year as Chelsea Park’s principal, said her school’s preparations before students returned on Thursday, Aug. 10, went well.

“It has been really busy lately with all the preparation that comes with preparing our school for opening along with all of the professional development we have to do before school starts,” Anderson said. “Our faculty, staff and administration have been busy preparing for the new school year.”

Anderson’s efforts in the back-to-school process have spanned from helping with registrar duties this summer to finding tangible ways to support her teachers.

“One thing I do to help my teachers prepare for the year is give them extra time to work in their classrooms when they first return to work,” she said. “I hope my faculty and staff have a great year. I also hope my students have the best experience at Chelsea Park. I want them to feel safe and loved by our amazing faculty and staff, so they can learn as much as they can when they are with us.”

Stevi Sims, who is in her fifth year as the principal of Forest Oaks, said the students at her school are excited to be back, and the faculty is energized and ready for a wonderful school year.

“Over the years, I’ve learned that the back-to-school process begins before the previous year has even ended,” Sims said. “Summers are a very busy time for us administrators and front office staff. We spend many, many hours planning and preparing for the upcoming year. We truly love what we do, and we hope it shows.”

According to Sims, two strategies that have helped her to stay organized and efficient when things can sometimes feel overwhelming are to refer back to old school calendars and to keep a running list of ideas for the future.

“I keep my personal school calendar from previous years and refer to them often when planning for the next school year,” Sims said. “I also keep a notebook and jot down ideas and suggestions for the upcoming school year and reference this as well when implementing new procedures. One of my former secretaries started a notebook for me that was labeled ‘Forget Me Nots’ and would constantly remind me to ‘go write that down in your notebook,’ and it has stuck ever since.”

The first day of school marks a new chapter for school employees and students, and the arrival of another year at Chelsea Park has been exciting for Anderson.

“I look forward to seeing the children return to campus,” Anderson said. “Their big smiles warm my heart and make me realize why I love this job so much.”

Sims also said she looks forward to seeing her students again every August and experiencing the excitement they bring to campus.

“This year, we hope for all of our students to look forward to coming to school each and every day, ready to learn and grow,” Sims said, praising her faculty and staff for the work they do daily for their students. “We hope to continue to instill a love for learning in them that will last them a lifetime. Everything we do is for them, and we hope they know just how much we love every single day.”

Anderson’s advice to students is “to have fun while learning and to not be scared to ask anyone for help.”

“The faculty and staff at Chelsea Park are amazing educators who go above and beyond each and every day to make our students and their families feel welcomed, loved and supported,” she said. “They truly care about each of their students in their classrooms.”