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Students back for new year

Brenton Day had met his new teachers, seen his new classroomsand was about to head home for the final night of summer.

Brookhaven Elementary School’s open house night had been adisappointment for the 9-year-old fourth-grader. The 2010-11 schoolyear would start the next morning, and he wasn’t ready. As theschool’s crowded hallways filled with excited kids, chatty mothersand teachers laying on the charm, he walked toward the exit with apoutful lip extended, mourning the final, fleeting hours of hissummer freedom Wednesday.

But then he saw the girl.

“Jenna!” he yelled, running up the hall away from his parents,weaving through the adults with determined agility to stand by hisgirl. “I was hoping she’d be in my class.”

Here, in the midst of his dread for the coming academic bondage,Brenton had found the perfect reason for coming back to school -8-year-old Jenna Segura.

“He’s my friend,” Jenna admitted with a grin. “We haven’t seeneach other all summer.”

Jenna blushed and quickly changed the subject to how much sheloved math. Brenton rejoined his parents and headed out the doorwith a bounce in his step. Similar scenes of dread and joy were toplay out all over Lincoln County Thursday morning when more than6,000 local students return to school for another nine-month stintof education.

But it’s not just the kids. Many parents are glad to see thereturn of school days, too.

“This year, we are,” said David Day, Brenton’s father. “It’sbeen a hectic summer. We’ve camped a lot with family, and we’vebeen inundated with children. We need a break.”

Jenna’s mother, Chris Segura, was also relieved to give herdaughters up to the school system again.

“Most definitely – an early birthday present,” she said. “It’smore of a routine. And, I enjoy the learning, working with themwhen they come back home.”

The start of school brings new questions for Allison Wallace,who for the first time will be sending all of her four children toschool. Tucker, 10, is off to the fifth grade; 9-year-old Kat is afourth-grader; 6-year-old Piker is moving into first grade; andJohn Patrick, 5, has made it to kindergarten.

“I’m excited they’re all going to school, but it will be quietat home,” Wallace said. “I really don’t know what I’ll do. I’venever had much free time before.”

Teachers, too, are ready to get back in the swing of things.

Donna Stolas, a fourth-grade language arts teacher, spent halfof her summer teaching in the 21st Century program, but a vacationin July has her refreshed and reloaded.

“I’m recharged, I really am. It’s just hot,” she said. “I can’tbelieve we’re back already. It seems like we just got outyesterday. I have a friend who teaches in Arizona, and she saidthey don’t come back until Aug. 30, and they got out at the end ofMay. That’s three full months of summer.”

Bridgett Gilmore, a fourth-grade reading and science teacher,returns to school with a new set of skills after she, too,sacrificed big chunks of her summer vacation.

“I attended some science workshops at (Jackson State University)and Alcorn (State University). They taught me a lot of new skillsand helped enhance some of the older teaching skills,” shesaid.

BES Principal Dolores Gearing also spent the summer in variousworkshops and conferences. Heading into her second year asprincipal, she called the first year “enlightening” and said she’sready to build upon her experiences.

At Wednesday night’s open house, she stood at the dim end of thefirst-floor hallway, sipping on a bottle of water and watchingdozens of children shuffle in and out the front door.

“The future. That’s what I’m looking at,” Gearing said.