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County, city students back in class after summer break

The county has been abuzz the past few days with students in both the county and city school systems starting back to school on Monday.

Leadership changes have been a big part of the start to the new school year for several of the county schools, the most recent of which is the transfer of Barry Laster from principal at Tharptown Elementary School to principal at Tharptown High School.

Franklin County Schools Superintendent Gary Williams said the transfer would take effect today and the principal position at TES would be posted for 14 days before that spot is filled.

“Barry has done a great job as principal of Tharptown Elementary for many years, and he has the necessary experience in the administrative capacity to make a smooth transition to being principal at the high school,” Williams said.

“With school already being started, we wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible, and Barry was a great choice because, not only does he have the administrative experience, but he is familiar with all the students and faculty and with the community.

“I believe he will do a great job and be a great asset to Tharptown High School.”

Williams said the first few days for the other county schools have seemed to go well.

“Everything has been pretty much routine at most of the schools, with the exception of Phil Campbell High School.

“Of course it’s not easy to be retuning to the mobile units, but the students, the faculty and the administration are all handling it very well and the first few days have been great considering the circumstances.

“All of our schools are off to a great start and I anticipate a great school year for the county school system.”

Russellville City Schools Superintendent Rex Mayfield said the start of the new school year has gone extremely well in light of several changes and adjustments, such as the expanding number of students enrolled in the city school system this year.

“As of Tuesday morning, our total enrollment system-wide was at 2,572 students,” Mayfield said.

“We checked our numbers back as far as 1986 and we have not had over 2,500 students in our system since that time.”

Mayfield said the biggest growth in enrollment has been at West Elementary School, which houses kindergarten through second grade.

“Last year on our 20-day report we had 628 students enrolled at West Elementary and as of Tuesday, we had 720 students, including the 18 students in our new pre-k class,” he said.

“This is the first year for our pre-k class, which was made possible through a grant.

“We probably could have applied for and received an additional grant for a second pre-k class, but we didn’t have an available classroom to be able to put them in. Every classroom we have is filled.

“The expanding enrollment numbers are not a problem at this time, but if they continue to grow, it is definitely something we will have to address.”

Another issue the Russellville City Schools must address is the traffic issue that is always a problem the first few days of the new year since all four schools located in close proximity to one another.

Mayfield said they had a traffic study conducted to see what could be done to aid in traffic flow and campus safety and one of the suggestions was adding a four-way stop at the intersection near the high school gym.

“This will be a lot different for many people who are used to taking this route and not stopping, but it will make things safer in that particular area and hopefully help traffic run more smoothly,” Mayfield said.

“We’ve worked with the city police department and we appreciate them for helping direct traffic the first couple of days until everyone got back in the swing of things.

“Usually after that first week the traffic problems seem to work themselves out and it’s not as much of an issue anymore.”
Mayfield said they also made a few adjustments to some of the bus routes to make them more efficient.
“We added four new bus routes and changed every bus route to lessen the number of students on each bus,” Mayfield said. “To help with the confusion, we made the bus routes available on our website,, so parents can see exactly what route their child will be taking.

“Even with the few adjustments and kinks we had to work out, all in all, I think we had a great start to the year.”