Around our house, it's called the "s-word," and it's not allowed to be uttered.
The eighth-grader even sticks his fingers in his ears and starts humming so he won't have to hear it spoken: "school."
Summer vacation ends this week, and it will be time for children all over our area to head back to the routine of earlier bedtimes and homework.
For one group of students in eastern Cabarrus County, the start of the school year brings big changes. The new A.T. Allen Elementary School is open and ready.
If you've driven along Miami Church Road this past year, you know this new school is much larger than the old A.T. Allen. Accordingly, the size of the student body is going to increase tremendously, with students coming from other elementary schools.
Carson Barbee is a third-grader who lives in the area that was re-districted from Mount Pleasant Elementary to A.T. Allen. He's excited about going to a brand new school but a little nervous, too. He thinks the new school must be really huge, but says he felt better about the whole situation when he heard the new building is two-stories tall. He doesn't know anyone from the old A.T. Allen school, but knows at least two boys from his second-grade class who also are moving to the new school, so he's not worried.
Colby Shropshire will be a fifth-grader; he attended the old A.T. Allen School. He's heard the new school is about three times the size of the old one, which he suspects will make it harder to get around, at least until he gets used to it.
He says he's looking forward to having more space, but says he will miss the old school.
His mother, Rhiannon Shropshire, also thinks it will be great to have more room and new technology. She's especially excited there will be more parking, since that was the biggest problem at the old location.
Traci Almond has taught at A.T. Allen for eight years, and is very excited. She calls the new technology "phenomenal": smart boards and several computers in each classroom. And best of all, she says, overhead projectors are "a thing of the past."
These tools will make it easier for teachers to teach, as well as keep track of students' progress and offer intervention as needed. They also will better equip students to learn and be prepared for the future.
Because the school is new for everyone, both returning and re-districted students, Almond said, there's a real sense of a new beginning. She's part of a team that has put together videos to explain school rules to all the students - everything from how to behave in the cafeteria to how to proceed safely up and down the stairs.
It's going to be an exciting time for students, teachers and staff at A.T. Allen. I wish them, and all our students, a great beginning to a wonderful school year.