Parents at the Wrightsville Beach School say that facilities are in better shape now than during the 2012-13 school year with two additional previously deployed mobile units.
They also cite several outdoor projects sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association to transform the school before any New Hanover County Schools renovations take place.
The current school year kicked off on Tuesday, Aug. 27, with 354 students enrolled at 2:30 p.m. Student numbers will be more accurate after the 10-day count on Sept. 10.
The school is 107 students over capacity. With mobile units, the school’s capacity is 247 students.
Mary Paul Beall, who is beginning her third year as school principal, said everything is established this year.
“We don’t have anybody in temporary classrooms,” Beall said. “Everybody has their own classroom which is wonderful. That was a big headache last year.”
The classroom sizes, currently at about 21 students, are also lower than the 2012-13 school year.
There are 17 homeroom K-5 teachers and 26 total teachers at the school.
The breakdown of students still leaves the majority spread throughout the nine mobile units. About 50 fifth-grade students are attending class in the nearby Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church and about 150 students are in the school building.
“The rising fifth graders wanted us to get the church again,” Beall said, about what is referred to as the fifth grade academy. “They were really excited about having their own campus away. … The kids love it. From 8 until 12:15, they have uninterrupted instruction out there, which is great.”
There is not a full-time security officer in the school, but the Wrightsville Beach Police Department will have a presence on the campus in the mornings and afternoons as well as regular check ups throughout the day.
A fourth school bus that was implemented during the end of the 2012-13 will again take students to Landfall in the afternoons.
While the school consistently ranks above the 90th percentile in proficiency, the most recent test results, which will be released in October, will drop because of new end-of-the-2012-13 school year assessments.
“That’s a given,” Beall said. “It always happens.”
New this year, a part-time Spanish teacher will be at the school three days per week. The position is funded by the Wrightsville Beach School Foundation. The foundation is prioritizing goal items, with walkie talkies for all teachers as one of several items up for a vote.
“We take that direction a lot from Mrs. Beall and the staff,” said Jennifer Kelly, WBS Foundation president.
Melissa Ellison, PTA president and mother of a third grade daughter, said the PTA has been working all summer to give the school some tender loving care.
“What else could we do to help everybody come back together?” Ellison said. “We had a little bit of problems with the redistricting issues last year, but everybody came back as a community and as a family.”
The association is funding a new $10,000 track made out of recyclable materials, a 55-gallon saltwater tank filled with “Finding Nemo” character fish, coastal landscaping, a patio to be located between the school and the arts mobile unit with picnic tables and umbrellas, and a regulation volleyball court.
The work on the track has been postponed due to rain, but is expected to be completed by Port City Landscaping in the coming weeks. While landscapers are on the premises, they are also exchanging some bushes in front of the school for palm trees and replacing other plants for a more coastal look.
There is also an estimated $3,500 pier project in the works, allowing students to catch and release puffer fish, crabs and other marine creatures.
“There’s a lot of neat things going on around here,” Ellison said. “We love our school. We know it’s older. But I think these main changes will make a big difference, and that’s exactly what we need. That’s what we need until we start working with the school system to look at renovations. … When we talked to Dr. Markley and Bill Hance, when we tell them our ideas, I’m always quick to say, ‘But that doesn’t mean we don’t need our renovations.’ But yes, we are doing what we can with what we have until that happens.”