For Summer and Hanna Stockwell, new backpacks and sneakers were only two of their back-to-school necessities. The sisters, who said they had been looking forward to the first day of school all summer, planned their coordinating white-and-pink outfits more than a week ago.
“They were up at 6:30 this morning,” said their mother, Roxana Brown, as the two girls bounced around her. “They were saying, ‘Can we get dressed? Can we leave?’ They love school.”
Summer, age 9, and Hanna, age 8, were two of the 17,083 students who attended Columbia Public Schools on Tuesday, according to Assistant Superintendent Lynn Barnett.
Barnett said this year’s first-day enrollment included 261 more students than last year’s. Official enrollment figures will be determined the last Wednesday of September.
Not all students are taught in air-conditioned classrooms. Barnett said during a press conference Tuesday morning that air movement is critical in classrooms without air conditioning. Acknowledging that hot classrooms provide challenges to learning and teaching, she said fans are being used and water breaks will be given often.
Brown said that when she and her daughters visited Fairview on Monday for open house, the rooms weren’t too hot. But, she said, she always packs water bottles and snacks for her daughters anyway.
“They eat all the time,” she said with a laugh.
Brown walked her girls to the bus on Tuesday and said she plans to walk with them each day. Last year, she said she drove them to school.
Drivers should be cautious of students, like Summer and Hanna, who are walking to the bus stop or school, said Columbia police Sgt. Timothy Moriarity.
Moriarity, who supervises the traffic unit, said everyone needs to pay attention to 20 mph school zones. He said students might not be aware of traffic as they talk to old friends and make new ones.
“They don’t know that 3,000-pound vehicles can’t stop on a dime,” Moriarity said. “Be patient; traffic will go eventually, and you will get through.”
Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Leer said he wants to see the community come together and watch out for children traveling to school, including teenagers who are new to driving. He also said drivers should be aware that school buses frequently stop and should consider buses to be moving traffic control devices.
“People think of stoplights and stop signs, but some will blow past a school bus,” he said.
Even though Summer said the bus was hot, she said she still had a good first day.
“I made a lot of friends,” she said, adding that a science experiment her teacher has planned for Wednesday has her excited for the second day of school.