By Candace Birkelbach
Killeen Daily Herald
Some people might think that Killeen Independent School District administrators sit in their offices on the first day of school. However, eight administrators from the district made stops at several schools Monday to check in with principals and teachers.
KISD Superintendent Jim Hawkins was in charge of visiting the seven schools with new principals this year, and one high school.
"This day serves as an expression of support for the new principals so we can be where they are," Hawkins said. He said he had a great impression of the first day of school after meeting with other administrators.
"It wasn't perfect, but rather uneventful considering the size of the district," he said.
He said some air conditioning units were out at some schools but that they would probably be fixed tomorrow.
Hawkins said his greatest concern was the number of students that waited until the first day of school to register.
"Anything that detracts from starting class on time delays students from getting situated that much longer," Hawkins said.
Enrollment numbers are collected throughout the first week of school, but schedule changes are not typically made until the end of the week, Hawkins said.
"We used to have teachers do head counts and call in the numbers but that was unreliable," he said. The district now relies on a computer data entry and runs reports after things settle out during the first week, Hawkins added.
"I don't see any students standing in classrooms so that's a good sign," Hawkins said.
At the end of the day, the administrators gather together and compare the enrollment projections to actual attendance to figure out if staff members are where they need to be, Hawkins said.
Administrators try to duck into as many classrooms as possible on the first day. Hawkins said since Fowler Elementary is the smallest school in the district, he was able to visit more classrooms than at a high school.
"This week is all about working out logistics and having students learn the rules and routine of the school," Hawkins said.
"Today our main focus is getting everyone to school safely and in the classroom with their teacher."
School officials say there are habitual transportation and traffic problems on the first day of school.
"We've had a pretty good start but it could always be better," said Marty Smonko, operations specialist for KISD.
Smonko said few buses were overloaded this year but the district is still lacking about 30 bus drivers.
Two children were reported missing after they did not immediately return to their homes after school.
One child had taken the wrong bus and one was found at a neighbor's house, Hawkins said. Both children were home at 5:45 p.m.
In a first-day glitch, a malfunction with the fire alarm occurred at Meadows Elementary School on Fort Hood. The fire department was sent to inspect the problem and students were not required to evacuate, said Bob Massey, public information officer for KISD.
The district is also dealing with the effects of a growing student body while planning new facilities.
With an estimated enrollment of 38,957 students, the district is forced to use portable buildings for schools without ample classrooms.
Ellison High School has 24 portables in use this year, said principal Marvin Rainwater. He said they were still waiting for the concrete to be set for the sidewalks outside the portables. These buildings are used for the overflow of students from regular classrooms at Ellison and all subjects are taught in them.
"What's scary is that we are five years away from having the new high school," Hawkins said.
He also said the enrollment projection is a peak number and they do not expect to fill that number until September.
"We are really going to have challenges with staff and space at Union Grove Middle School, Live Oak Ridge Middle School and Iduma Elementary," Hawkins added.
Hawkins said the planning and preparatory work from all staff members really payed off in making the first day run smoothly.
"This didn't happen by accident," Hawkins said. "We will continue to gather information and adjust staff as needed."
Contact Candace Birkelbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7553