“Good morning, Hornet family!”
With that opening delivered over the intercom, Principal David Greene kicked off the new school year Monday morning for the 525 students who attend Anne Chesnutt Middle School on Skibo Road.
The school system’s other year-round schools, E.E. Miller Elementary and Reid Ross Classical, also welcomed students Monday.
At Anne Chesnutt, vehicles were lined up in the parking lot Monday morning waiting to drop off children who attend the school’s sixth through eighth grades.
After being dropped off, the students moved along at a steady clip to go indoors. One girl stopped to hug Assistant Principal Whitney Iglesias before turning the corner with the rest of the students.
Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr. said the parents were probably more excited than the students.
“We’re pretty happy to get her back in school,” Fred Hardison, who is 72, said of his 12-year-old daughter, Valentina. “In the classroom. Face to face.”
Last year, she attended Cumberland County Virtual Academy.
And what were Valentina’s thoughts on returning to school — this time among fellow students?
“She’s got mixed feelings,” Hardison said just outside the school. “She was happy to get back, but she’s never been a big fan of going to school.”
Earlier in the morning, Connelly greeted some of the parents and caregivers who drove their children to school.
“Good morning. We are back. Cumberland County Schools are open,” Connelly told reporters. “We never really closed. We’ve been open all summer. Year-round starts back today at Anne Chesnutt Middle, EE. Miller Elementary and Reid Ross Classical.”
More than 1,600 year-round students kicked off a new school year Monday, according to Connelly. He also said the district has 16 school buses on the road.
"We are excited to have our children back in the building," he said. "Everyone is excited to try to move forward from the pandemic. We realize we’re still in it, but we’re ready.”
In terms of how the system will continue to address in-school COVID-19 concerns, he said the system will rely on the steps that were taken last year to keep the numbers as low as possible.
“The measures we had in place last year – wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance when you’re able to – they worked last year as well as encouraging everyone to get vaccinated,” the superintendent said. “If you’re eligible, get the booster.”
Masks are optional for students and staff.
Spanish Immersion program
Anne Chesnutt offers a Spanish Immersion choice program. For students in that program, instruction is primarily in Spanish throughout the day.
About 60 students are taking that program this year, Greene said. The Spanish Immersion choice program has been offered at Anne Chesnutt for about a decade.
The students also are taught social studies, science and math in Spanish.
“Anne Chesnutt is a choice school. One of our options is our year-round schedule, and what I call our crown jewel is our Spanish Immersion program,” Greene said. “The program has meant a lot to this school in that it has allowed us to grow.
“So we have students that would have started the Spanish Immersion program in elementary,” Greene added. “They get to come to us. If they make it through the eighth-grade year, they earn two high school credits in Spanish and are basically fluid in Spanish.”
Four Spanish instructors, all from Colombia, talked with reporters about the importance of the students learning the language and studying the Hispanic cultures.
“Right here – this program. It allows students to get a different look at culture,” Spanish teacher Andres Rangel said. "I think the program teaching is really important. Spanish people are emerging in the (U.S.) population.”
Angelica Restrepo, another Spanish teacher at the school, said "international teachers need to work through the learning. When we share our culture, our language and our heritage, we give them different perspectives. For me, this is the best part.”
Kristi Harden, the school system's director of transportation, talked about the "Here Comes the Bus" tool that allows families with access to view the real-time location of their child's school bus on a smartphone or computer.
Parents can sign up or learn more about the app at the "Here Comes the Bus" website.
Aicha Kine, who is 29, said her family had just moved to Fayetteville from Texas. This was her 12-year-old niece’s first year at Anne Chesnutt.
She said her niece has been excited about returning to the classroom. With a laugh, Kine said, her niece had been talking about it “all the week.”
Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.