School bell ringing for Wise County students

Stephen Igo • Aug 7, 2013 at 8:53 PM

WISE — Summer is over, at least for about 6,000 public school students in Wise County.

The county school division begins the 2013-14 school year Thursday with one revamped high school facility opening its doors to students for the first time and two other new high school facilities on schedule to open in January.

Motorists are advised to be extra cautious Thursday and Friday as things get into swing for a new school year. Wise County Director of Secondary Education Greg Mullins on Wednesday said it probably will take everyone a couple of weeks to become re-accustomed to the twice-a-day yellow school bus shuffle.

“I just want all of our area drivers to watch for those big red ‘STOP’ flashing lights on our buses. For the summer those going to work every morning have sort’ve had a reprieve, I guess, watching for and stopping for our school buses, and we certainly ask everybody to be mindful of that over the next couple of days and next couple of weeks when it comes to that, until everybody gets used to it all over again,” he said.

Mullins said in recent days he shared with his daughter that he’s dealt with the opening day of schools “darn near the last 50 falls now” so she hasn’t any valid reason to get terribly flustered.

“The first day is always an exciting day. There’s always our new students enrolling and going to school for their first time ever, and those moving up to new levels, from primary to middle and from middle to high school, and that’s always exciting for those students,” he said.

“We will have new administrators and new teachers here and there, and our experienced staff are always eager to help the new ones. So it’s exciting and hopefully everything will go smooth and if there’s anything we need to adjust, we will, just get it cleared up in a couple of days and go at it again.”

Traffic at and around school facilities will always come with some level of a madhouse effect, but Mullins noted the county school division has tinkered with school facility traffic patterns and has pending solutions to alleviate same. It’s an ongoing process.

“We’ve made several adjustments over the years to alleviate traffic around our buildings and get our bus routes laid out in the most efficient means. Most parents bring their kids to school the first couple of days and that certainly increases traffic around our buildings,” he said.

“But the big thing is being safe and patient and, with those two things in combination, it all works out fine.”

Eastside High School students and teachers return to their true digs Thursday after spending last school year in temporary quarters in St. Paul while the former Coeburn High School facility got a major overhaul.

Work will continue through about mid-September but Eastside students of 2013-14 get to be the inaugural group through the doors Thursday. Besides the refurbished facilities — and a new science wing to be completed by next month — Mullins said the traffic pattern at Eastside will be familiar to parents, though improved.

“There won’t be such a dramatic change but the patterns will be a little bit different with the new turning circle. It’s a little bit of a different layout,” he said. “Hopefully with additional parking spaces, and how we adjusted the space we have up there, will help with traffic some up there.”

Brand new facilities are under construction in Big Stone Gap and Wise for high school students in those service areas.

A new Union High School in Big Stone Gap and Central High School in Wise are scheduled to open their doors for the first time in January. Those students have been attending the former Powell Valley and J.J. Kelly buildings, respectively, while the new facilities are being built. So the school division plans on three impressive ribbon cutting ceremonies this school year.

The $8.5 million Eastside project, meanwhile, is close to full completion.

“They’re closing in. There’s been a lot of cleaning up and moving in and moving out going on, and our teachers have been there getting set up,” Mullins said. “We’ve had additional custodial staff at Eastside working down there and I think we will use every available hour right up to start time on Thursday to get things as ready as we possibly can for opening day.”

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