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Back in class

by Gail Marsh

STAFF WRITER

GRAFTON -- "My locker combination doesn't work."

"Can you tell me how to find Room 303?"

"I don't think I have the right schedule."

Except for a few students who were having minor problems, the opening day of school on Monday was relatively smooth at Grafton High School.

More than 800 students in grades 9-12 managed to find their way to class and leave the halls quiet by mid-morning.

"Generally, things have gone very well. If the rest of the year goes anything like today, we are 'In Like Flint,'" said Jim Romeo, principal of the school along Riverside Drive.

Jessie Bean, a senior at GHS, said he was happy to be back.

"I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of people again. I live out in the boondocks and didn't see anybody all summer," he said.

Tiffany Robinson, also a senior, agreed.

"I'm glad to be back, too, just to get it over with," she said.

Jane Reynolds, Taylor County's new superintendent who has been on the job since July 1, took the time to visit all of the county's seven schools during the day.

She said she noticed that the children were having a little problem dealing with their appetites.

"During vacation, they're used to being able to snack when they want to, and I'm sure it seems like a long time between breakfast and lunch.

"At several of the schools, the children were asking if it was time for lunch yet," she said.

Reynolds' tour at GHS included a look at the new cafeteria and the science wing, built a few years ago with School Building Authority funds. She made time to stop and meet several teachers while looking over the building.

She found a group of Becky Ringler's special education students taking the time to clean up some scuff marks on the shiny hallway floors.

"These kids have a lot of pride in their school, and they just couldn't stand to see the scuff marks on the floor," Ringler said.

Reynolds said she's looking forward to the challenge of the new school year, including evaluating and making recommendations to improve a number of academic programs.

She also plans to promote health and an interest in life-long fitness to combat the rise in childhood obesity.

"A sedentary lifestyle is taking a toll on people my age, and we're seeing a lot of health problems, including adult onset diabetes. I would like to promote an interest in life-long sports, such as walking or swimming, that the students can continue all their lives," she said.

Reynolds said she will also be facing the challenge of declining student enrollment, as nearly every county in West Virginia will face.

"We've also had to combat the loss of our students who decide to attend schools in other counties. We plan to vigilant to encourage our students to remain here to receive their education," she said.

Safety remains a concern and, along with the Safe Schools Hotline, the county has instituted a policy of having parents sign a paper stating that they and their children have read the student handbook.

"For the first time, we've asked parents to sign a form saying that their children know what constitutes inappropriate behavior and know what is not appropriate to bring to school. It's important to let them know early on that they must comply with the rules," Reynolds said.

Staff writer Gail Marsh can be reached at 626-1447.

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