Hamlet Middle works to ‘take the new off’ of school

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Arlaisjha Morrison was among the few students to open her locker on her first try on Thursday during Hamlet Middle School's Jump Start program.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Arlaisjha Morrison was among the few students to open her locker on her first try on Thursday during Hamlet Middle School’s Jump Start program.

By Kevin Spradlin PeeDeePost.com HAMLET — Staff and administrators at Hamlet Middle School worked Thursday morning to “take out the new” to school for many of the incoming sixth grade students.

Nearly four dozen of them, some wary of being separated from their parents for three hours in a strange environment — any many parents and grandparents anxious, too — participated in the Jump Start program that included orientation, a tour of the school, an exercise in opening lockers with combinations and a scavenger hunt to know a little bit more about the Red Rams.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Phyllis Lupo, band teacher, encourages students to consider playing an instrument for one of their two encore, or elective, classes.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Phyllis Lupo, band teacher, encourages students to consider playing an instrument for one of their two encore, or elective, classes.

Principal Jim Butler said the No. 1 concern for most students is opening their lockers for the first time. “It freaks ’em out,” he said.

And he was right.

After the students were separated into small groups, each eventually made their way to a set of lockers in the cafeteria. They loomed larger than life and several students, including Allyson Leggett, had to stand on her tippy toes to reach and see the numbers on the combination lock of the lockers on the second, higher row.

Social Studies teacher David Rathfon was there to help the trio of Red Rams cheerleaders who served as mentors and tour guides for the day. It was a good thing, too, because even the cheerleaders — and Rathfon himself — had difficulty with the lockers when the list had three sets of possible combinations.

But Rathfon remained cool, calm and collected as he helped the newly appointed sixth graders complete the task. “17, 12, 49,” he called out for one locker. “Keep repeating that to yourself.” It was a lot to remember. The three-figure combination. The number of the locker. And to begin, the lock must be “reset” and then spun three times clockwise, twice counterclockwise and then once more clockwise to and stop at the third and final number.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Karen Brewer, media specialist, encourages students to make use of a suggestion box to let her know which books the library should acquire.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Karen Brewer, media specialist, encourages students to make use of a suggestion box to let her know which books the library should acquire.

“You’ve gotta stop on the right number,” Rathfon said. “You can’t go past it a little bit and go back. That’s not gonna work.”

Arlaisjha Morrison was all smiles as she managed to open a locker on her first try. Leggett and Maurissa Powell weren’t so lucky; neither were several other students.

Eighth-grade cheerleader Kasey Knight led the group of about 10 students on a tour of the building that coincided with the scavenger hunt.

The group had 20 minutes to complete 10 tasks, which included getting a principal’s autograph, counting how many windows there were in the media center (and multiplying that number by seven), county the computers in the computer labs and the tables in the lunch room, identifying the school mascot, finding the band and chorus rooms, counting the bathrooms in the school and knowing how many sixth grade teachers the school had, among other items.

Knight carried a mental version of what was likely considered, at least by the sixth graders, to be a more valuable list. While passing this hallway, that room or that doorway, Knight offered words of wisdom and caution to the new middle-schoolers.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Allyson Leggett gets her locker to open on something other than the first try.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Allyson Leggett gets her locker to open on something other than the first try.

* “Don’t let your flip-flops slam in the stairwell,” she said. “They make too much noise.”

* “Don’t be in the eighth grade hallway.” * “You have three minutes in between classes.”

* “This is the only place to come” to enter the school for an after-school dance. And most important, perhaps — keep your right foot on the red line in the cafeteria and for goodness sake, don’t talk in line.

“They will not tolerate any talking, especially sixth grade teachers,” Knight said. Gardner said that could get a student sent to the back of the line or, if the situation escalated, mandated to “silent lunch.”

That, Knight said, is where a student must sit a row of windows and sit silently through the lunch period and eat and then, afterwards, help clean up the cafeteria.

Inside the library, media specialist Karen Brewer talked about the available books and how they were organized. Brewer discussed the classic books — eye rolling — but noted the classics were, in fact, very good books — good enough to have stuck around.”

She also offered “insider knowledge” to the kids.

“The good computers you want to use are over there,” Brewer pointed to one row.

The other set, she said, are much slower and need replaced. They’ll drive you crazy, Brewer said.

Inside the band room, instructor Phyllis Lupo offered encouragement for all the students, even those who’ve never played.

She teaches “one note at a time,” Lupo said. “It’s a little bit hard at first.”

But the hard work and effort is rewarded by playing songs within the first six weeks.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Instead of the Dewey Decimal system, books are now color-coded and organized according to genre, said media specialist Karen Brewer, much like modern bookstores are laid out.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Instead of the Dewey Decimal system, books are now color-coded and organized according to genre, said media specialist Karen Brewer, much like modern bookstores are laid out.

“I’ve had to do that,” she said. “It’s not fun.” In the cafeteria, Butler addressed anxious parents and grandparents for about 20 minutes to discuss daily routines, including pick-ups and drop-offs.

“One way to make sure your child’s never late is to put ’em on a bus,” Butler said. “If the bus is late, it’s on us.”

Butler said sixth grade students are divided into one of two groups, Team Einstein and Team Newton. Each group might not be together for the entire school day but they will have the same teachers which, Butler said, helps students and teachers coordinate  assignments across the curriculum.

He also reminded parents that students this year in grades kindergarten through eighth grade are eligible for free breakfast and free lunch, no forms required. It’s a situation that’s “long overdue,” he said. “It makes it much easier on us … and much easier, probably, on you.”

Butler recommended that caregivers “keep it simple” when it comes to complying with the school’s uniform policy and warned them of retailers that would set out “school uniform” signs for clothing that might not adhere to the policy.

He said students will try and test the limits of the policy — they do it every year — and noted that “girls are the worst at it … they’re always looking for one little thing” to be different.

Students will go on two major field trips this year, Butler said.

“We think our kids need to go, see and experience things,” Butler said, and learn “a little bit of a world outside Hamlet.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Allyson Leggett reaches for her second-row locker inside the school cafeteria Thursday at Hamlet Middle School.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Allyson Leggett reaches for her second-row locker inside the school cafeteria Thursday at Hamlet Middle School.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Hamlet Middle School Social Studies teacher David Rathfon proudly shows that he has opened a locker … um, on his first try.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Hamlet Middle School Social Studies teacher David Rathfon proudly shows that he has opened a locker … um, on his first try.

Upcoming important dates

* Open House — Thursday, Aug. 21 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

* Picture Day — Friday, Aug. 29

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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