BY KARISSA MILLER
Masks and big grins marked the first day of school Tuesday at N.B. Mills Elementary School, Iredell-Statesville Schools’ only year-round school.
“Everyone’s excited about our first day back at school,” Principal Jonathan Nicastro said. “It’s been great. Kids are excited and all smiles.”
The new school year is the first time in which students started school two weeks early.
Traditional students return to school August 23.
Fourth-graders in teacher May Lee’s classroom sat at their desks as she reviewed the class schedule for the day and reminders Tuesday morning. She was very quick to praise students for their good behavior so far.
On Monday, the school held an open house for prospective and returning students. The school enrolled 370 students.
Nicastro said that most parents breathed a sigh of relief when they found out that wearing face masks was a parent’s choice this year.
However, there were some students who arrived to school ready to wear their face mask all day, but a majority of them opted not to do so. Regardless of the parent’s choice option, masks must be worn at all times on the school bus due to a federal regulation.
N.B. Mills also welcomed new teachers in kindergarten, second, third and fifth grades. Nicastro said that the school anticipated around 55 kindergartners and had 69 kindergarteners show up to school, which may lead to adding an additional kindergartner teacher.
He also mentioned that the school will continue its “four houses, one family” concept, which is similar to Harry Potter, but is based on the Ron Clark academy. Each house follows a certain set of values they are trying to instill, and students can earn points for their house for good behavior and academic achievements.
One opportunity for improvement this year for the school is reducing the number of office referrals. Nicastro said that last year they had more than 440 office referrals, which he believes is too many.
The staff will undergo schoolwide Social Emotional Learning training for elementary schools and build a common language of behavioral expectations.
“It’s putting the responsibility on the child to own their behavior, but it’s also giving them the coaching on how to identify how they are feeling. Then, they know what do that’s more productive to help with that,” Nicastro said.
For example, it’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to hit someone, he said, or it may be working through what to do when you feel frustrated while learning something new, he added.
N.B. Mills adopted a year-round schedule to help close summer learning gaps. Since it is a state-designated Restart school, N.B. Mills’ administrators have flexibilities, which allow them to make changes that will benefit their students.
“One of the most exciting things is we switched to this restart schedule. Three of our intercession weeks we’ll be running camps that we’ve got an opportunity to do a little bit of remediation targeted instruction for math, reading and science,” Nicastro said.
“They’ll get a chance to engage in activities that they normally don’t get to participate in,” he added.
Camps include GEM and GENTS confidence building, Rocky Railway Bible Camp, Oceans with YMCA, Drama Club camp and Healthy Minds and Bodies.