Manassas Journal Messenger | Students return to city schools

Tears flowed freely Tuesday morning, a 5-year-old girl’s first day as an official kindergartner.

Confident Baldwin Elementary School kindergartner Madeleine Bailey offered her hand for support to her mother, whose eyes watered and reddened on the first day of the 2005-2006 school year.

“Come on, mama,” said Madeleine, sporting a new pink and white butterfly-print book bag and matching lunch sack.

Julie Bailey’s tears were shed for sadness as much for happiness.

“I’m excited to see her blossom,” she said.

Madeleine was one of the 9,034 students projected to enroll in Manassas and Manassas Park public schools.

Newness abounded as new principals took the helms at some of the 11 schools in the two school divisions. A few first-time students wept a little, but then so did some of their parents. Manassas Park’s middle school and high school, which are adjacent to each other, posed a bit of a challenge for buses and cars, because the schools share the same opening and dismissal times for the first time.

Still, administrators say problems were minimal on the first day of a week that usually presents a big learning curve.

“We had a great opening. It’s the smoothest one I think since I’ve been here,” said Haydon Elementary School Principal John Lensch, who said that 602 students had enrolled at Haydon as of Tuesday.

Baldwin’s new principal, Ashley Cramp, stood in the school’s foyer, greeting students who were eager to show off their new book bags and reassuring parents who were eager to make sure their children were accounted for that morning.

Steven Bryant was one of those parents.

“I’m excited about him starting school and getting on his journey of education,” said Bryant of his son Darius’ foray into kindergarten.

Baldwin’s 101 staff members, 65 of whom are teachers, spent last week decorating classrooms, calling parents for information missing from student files, meeting with student safety patrols and registering new students, Cramp said.

“It’s great. It’s nice to finally have the kids back in the building, to see those smiling faces and their enthusiasm to start the new year,” said Cramp, walkie-talkie in hand.

Formerly an assistant principal at Grace E. Metz Middle School, Cramp kept a close eye on the comings and goings of 640 students and their family members. As she moved toward a breast-feeding mother in the hallway, a staff member quickly escorted mother and child to a private staff lounge.

Manassas didn’t have complete enrollment numbers by Tuesday afternoon, but about 2,167 students were enrolled in Manassas Park. That number includes the 197 kindergartners who will report today.

Manassas Park implemented a staggered start for kindergartners last year to allow for an easier transition.

“We just felt that kindergartners do better when they can come in at night to meet their teachers and then come to school the next day,” said Cougar Elementary School Principal Patricia Miller.

With the faint scent of freshly painted walls, the school had functioned smoothly for its 589 students Tuesday.

New teacher Joseph Portelli said the key was in the planning, as he sat in his first-grade classroom replete with multiple alphabet charts and tiny chairs and desks.

Except for a few bathroom emergencies, he and his students spent the day focusing on establishing their routines for learning.

After a few moments of pondering, Portelli stated two goals for the year. One of which was to have his three non-English speaking students fluent by the end of the year. The second goal applied to all 24 of his students.

“What I would hope is if I get my students to fall in love with learning,” Portelli said.

Saying he did well practicing writing his name, one of Portelli’s students gave his teacher high marks after school.

“But my favorite part of the day was when I had two recesses,” said 6-year-old Camron Robertson.

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