The first day of school went smoothly in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, as roughly 1.5 million students across North Carolina began the 2016-17 school year Monday.
Buses hit the road around 4:30 a.m. and got most students to school on time, despite traffic being routed off outbound Independence Boulevard because of a broken water main. Students aren’t penalized for being tardy during the first week, said Superintendent Ann Clark, because buses, parents and commuters are all getting used to new patterns.
“Maybe we’re not a welcome sight to many of our commuters,” Clark said.
It was Clark’s 33rd and final opening day. She started as a CMS teacher in 1983 and expects to retire this spring or summer.
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The coming year will bring plenty of drama for adults: Not only the hiring of a new superintendent, but crucial decisions about student assignment, as well as preparation for a bond campaign and a school board race.
But Monday the spotlight was on students — CMS expects about 147,000 of them — and the educators who greeted them.
CMS continues looking for teachers, with 80 vacancies Monday morning. That’s lower than usual, less than 1 percent of the work force of about 9,000, and Clark said raises approved by the state legislature this year have helped stem the departures. “That has made a huge difference,” she said.
Statesville Road and Nations Ford elementary schools came back to new buildings. Jordan Todd, a third-grade teacher at Statesville Road, said her students were so proud that when one child dropped a crayon and marked the new floor, another insisted he clean it up.
“Just the smell of the paint is giving me life,” Todd beamed.