Summer is effectively over for thousands of students in the Talladega County School System and Pell City School System who returned to class Thursday morning.

Both school systems got an early jump on the 2014-2015 school year by scheduling their start dates nearly two weeks earlier than last year's start date.

“The first day of school for Talladega County Schools’ students was exceptionally smooth,” Talladega County Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Lacey said. “There were the normal first-day traffic issues because so many parents like to bring their children on the first morning of the school year, but, as they do each and every day, local law enforcement officers did an excellent job in helping with the traffic flow.”

Lacey noted administrators, teachers and support personnel spent portions of the summer working toward professional development goals, attending seminars and preparing for school to begin.

“Schools held open houses and ‘Meet Your Teacher’ nights, which assist students in knowing expectations before classes even begin and contributes to the overall efficiency and ease of the first day,” Lacey said. “The first day of school is always exciting, and today was just that. It was the first day of what we know will be a great year for Talladega County students.”

Amanda Kepple, a seventh-grade life science teacher at Charles R. Drew Middle School, discussed the benefits of teacher involvement in professional development and planning.

“The summers are usually where we do a lot of our planning for the next year,” Kepple said. “Having that professional development in the summer time focuses us so we can do our planning in the summer and gives us good ideas. It does take some family time away, but it’s very helpful.”

She explained the short summer was both a blessing and a curse for the students.

“The blessing was, they didn’t get out of school mode,” Kepple said. “The curse was they didn’t get a break.”

Jaylon Hudson, an eighth grader at Charles R. Drew Middle School in Lincoln, said he had a busy summer working on numerous school-related projects, from a National History Day project to the school yearbook.

“Most of my summer was here for school activities or in different places for school activities,” Hudson said. “It was harder coming back to school.”

Across the Coosa River, Pell City’s Superintendent Dr. Michael Barber said he didn’t encounter any significant problems on the first day of school.

“I think it has probably been the smoothest start I’ve had here,” Barber said. “We had a pretty good start. It’s almost like we never left because of the shorter summer. I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. It was a great day.”

Lauren Carpenter, starting her second year as choral director for Pell City High School, said she was excited about the first day of school.

“At the end of last year, I felt like the summer month of June lasted forever and a day,” Carpenter said. “I didn’t exactly know what to do with myself other than to start getting prepared for the new school year. But then July flew by! I would have loved to have had a couple more extra days to prepare and have some more summer, but I thought it was a very nice beginning”

Kendall Smith, a senior at PCHS, didn’t seem to be caught off-guard by the shorter summer break.

“It wasn’t getting ready for school that affected me because I was already prepared, but I would’ve liked a longer summer, because who doesn’t like summer?” Smith said.

With the early start of school bringing an early close to the summer travel season, Alabama Department of Tourism Regional Director Brian Jones said there’s no way to tell at this point whether the changed school calendra will have an impact on the state's tourism figures and revenues.

Contact Shane Dunaway at