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There was a mixture of happiness and tears at Wetumpka Elementary School as students enrolled in the Elmore County Public Schools system headed back to the classroom on Monday, Aug. 9, for the start of the 2021-2022 year.

WES Principal Gigi Hankins said she was thrilled to have all of the students back on campus.

"The day went incredibly smooth considering some kids haven’t been on campus for 15 months," Hankins said.

Hankins said the school's open house event on Aug. 5 probably had something to do with that.

"I feel like the open house really helped because it gave parents and students an opportunity to see and meet the teachers and get all of their questions answered," Hankins said. "It's an adjustment of both sides. As a parent, it is hard to release your child to this teacher. I definitely saw some teary-eyes Mamas. But I do want to reassure our parents that we are doing our best to provide students with a safe, fun and enriching environment."

Elmore County Public Schools Superintendent Richard Dennis said the first day went smoothly throughout the county.

"I went by every school and they were all pretty quiet," Dennis said on the first day. "Our teachers and administrators worked hard to be prepared for today and it shows. We did see some big numbers at certain schools with parents registering kids on the first day. Wetumpka High School had a lot of kids registering for the first time, and at Millbrook Middle, there were about 70 kids registering for school."

Dennis said he expects enrollment numbers to increase over the course of the first week. He said it'll be Thursday or Friday before the district has a good sense of how much enrollment numbers have grown. This is especially true because pre-K and kindergarten students are starting school on a staggered schedule. Pre-K and kindergarten classes won't be at full capacity until the end of the week.

Dennis said teachers are also adjusting to the new PowerSchool software handed down by the Alabama State Department of Education, which they're required to use. The software is used for grading, class scheduling, reporting attendance and more.

"We're working to get accustomed to it," Dennis said.

Now that the school year has started, Millbrook Police Chief P.K. Johnson reminded motorists to be mindful of school buses, students loading and unloading the buses, as well as increased traffic in the mornings and afternoons.

"There will be more traffic on the roadways as school buses, parents transporting children and students licensed to drive will be making their way to school," Johnson said in a press release. "The Millbrook Police Department will have extra officers working during both the morning and evening school traffic hours to help our motoring public with the transition into school traffic. Every year, the first day of school brings excitement for the students and faculty, as well as a certain amount of aggravation to those who are trying to get to work during the increased traffic that comes with the start of school. Our goal is to make this transition as safe as we possibly can for our students, teachers and the motoring public."

Johnson encouraged motorists to remain patient during the transition.