Kitty Stone

1st graders Greyson Griffith and Gabriella Dunn draw during the first day of school at Kitty Stone Elementary School in Jacksonville. Photo by Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star

Kitty Stone Elementary second-grader Ella Bonner spent the last part of her summer preparing for the early start that comes with back-to-school time.

“I’ve been practicing getting up early,” Ella said.

Ella, who spent part of her summer vacation at the beach, said she was excited for the first day of school at Kitty Stone on Tuesday, where she hopes second grade will bring her opportunities to learn new things.

“I’m excited to do experiments and science stuff. I’ve never done that before,” Bonner said.

Kids around Calhoun County ended summer vacations this week to return to the classroom, as the county school district resumed operation for the 2019-20 school year Monday and Jacksonville and Anniston schools opened for business Tuesday.

The rest of the county follows suit throughout the week, with Oxford, Donoho and Sacred Heart returning Wednesday while Faith Christian School and Jacksonville Christian Academy on Thursday. Classes at Piedmont schools begin Friday, while students at Trinity Christian Academy get one more week of their summer break, resuming classes Aug. 14. 

 “It’s actually been surprisingly calm,” Saks Elementary Principal Amber Ray said of the return to school on Monday. “Hopefully it isn’t the calm before the storm.” 

According to Ray, staff and teachers around Saks are excited to see their mentorship program, which began last year, continue into 2019.

“We’ve got our schoolwide mentoring program,” Ray said. “Every child has an adult that they’re paired up with that can provide mentorship.”

Ray said the program isn’t limited to teachers. Other staff members, including Ray, are available to give kids an outlet to share their concerns in and out of the classroom.

“Whether they’re worried about grades, something happening on the bus, at P.E. or even at home, they’ll have someone to talk to,” Ray said.

Ray said students will keep the same mentor from when they enter kindergarten through 4th grade, when they transition into the middle school.

Bonner’s older schoolmate, sixth-grader Mya Swain, is beginning her last year at Kitty Stone before “crossing the road” to Jacksonville High School in seventh grade.

“I feel like this year is like a really big year, especially being like a ‘senior’ of this school now,” Mya said. “It’s a pretty big responsibility.”

While she said she’s excited to move into high school, Mya wants to make her last year at Kitty Stone count.

“Every time I move up, it gets more fun,” Mya said. “I really like coming here. I don’t think I’d want to move anywhere else. I really like Kitty Stone.” 

Tesha Crump, principal at Ohatchee Elementary, said the school saw a good first day, too. 

“It’s been really smooth, actually,” Crump said. 

Crump said she and the staff were excited to welcome back kids to the small-town school.

“We’re kind of a well-kept secret over here on the creekbank,” Crump said. “We’re a great little community of people.”

Nancy Kelley, a manager of the lunchroom at Pleasant Valley Elementary, said the first day of school was a success, at least in one respect. The kids ate their green beans.

“Today we had chicken nuggets, which is one of their favorites, and they’ve just devoured their green beans,” Kelley said. “Can you believe that, kids eating green beans?”

1st day school

Teacher Katelynn Coss helps Charlie Poe in the lunch line during the first day of school at Saks Elementary School on Monday.

According to Kelley, most of the preparation for a new school year in the lunchroom is done well ahead of time.

“We come back a week earlier than the kids to kind of straighten up and clean, but a lot of our preparation is done before school is out with making sure we order what we need,” Kelley said.

Kelley, who has worked in lunchrooms at Pleasant Valley for over a decade, said the first day of school is a source of excitement for the entire lunch staff.

“We look forward to today, that’s when the babies come back,” Kelley said. “You see how much they’ve grown, see if they remember you. You’ve got to love your job, and I do.”

Contact Staff Writer Daniel Mayes at 256-235-3561 or On Twitter @DMayes_Star.