LUMBERTON — Principals, teachers and school administrators were delighted Thursday as students lined up to learn more about the upcoming school year — and to get free stuff. The Public Schools of Robeson County’s annual Back to School Celebration packedin the people at at Southeastern North Carolina Agricultural Events Center on U.S. 74. “I’m really excited. We’ve got a lot of things planned and lots of new adventures,” said Meghan Miller, the director of Shining Stars Preschool in Pembroke. “We’re excited about seeing all of our kids today and open house is coming so it has just been amazing.”
Free supplies were handed out to thousands of students from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Officials expected as many as 20,000 of the system’s 24,000 students to benefit. “This year I was worried about our numbers because of the rain. I was worried about the rain and the heat and the humidity, but the numbers have been great,” said Amy Haigler, coordinator of the system’s Parent-Student Center, which organizes the event. “There was a big rush in the morning. People were already lined up by 6 (a.m.) . She expected another rush after parents got off work. “It’s a fantastic event,” said Loistine DeFreece, a school board member. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit all of the schools and meet the children. I’ve received positive comments from parents as well.”
Sharon Breeden, the new principal of Red Springs Middle School, is ready to begin the new academic year at the school where she once taught. “We are excited about the new school year. Our teachers have been working throughout the summer to prepare themselves to engage our students in learning opportunities that will set them up for success,” she said.
Booths representing all 40 schools in the Robeson County district were set up at the event. There even was a booth for Southside-Ashpole Elementary, which is the only school in the recently created Innovative School District. Students and members of their families were able to come to the booth to meet the school principal and get information and dates for upcoming school events.
“I’m excited about having all of the students back. It’s been a long summer,” said James Goins, a St. Pauls High School Spanish teacher. All who come to the event received a free book bag, school supplies and snacks. This year, high school students also received subject folders. Also, all who came to the celebration could receive a sweet surprise because World Finest Chocolates sat up shop to give out free chocolate. Parents and guardians were given a bag containing a variety of educational items, including a calendar and notepad.
“The reason that we started doing this is because of the high financial burden it (buying school supplies) put on our parents,” Haigler said. “When you’re talking about four or five children and you’re trying to buy book bags for all of them and school supplies, it can get to be expensive. Then you got to buy school clothes, and school this and school that, so I think our parents are very appreciative, and our children.”
Almost 300 volunteers assisted with the event, including the St. Pauls High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, members of which managed the concession tent all day and gave out large bags filled with snacks for children to take home. “We have people from all walks of life who come in and donate time,” Haigler said. “Some of them work the whole 12 hours.”
Assistant Superintendent Robert Locklear said this school year there will be a lot more teachers and several new curriculum programs implemented. “I always look forward to the beginning and seeing the kids come back. That’s always my highlight of the school year — the first day,” Locklear said.
Open Houses for 39 of the 40 schools have been scheduled for Aug. 23. Early College at Robeson Community College held its open house on Thursday and classes will begin Monday. The new school year for the other county public schools starts Aug. 27.