DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Durham Public Schools welcomed more than 30,000 students back to the classroom Monday. For the first time in a decade, hundreds of students got the opportunity to walk through brand new doors.
Lyons Farm Elementary is a brand new, two-story, state-of-the-art facility that welcomed over 400 new students.
It’s the first Durham Public School built within the last 10 years. And Durham school officials want its rich history to inspire the generations to walk its grounds.
Parents started dropping students at 7:15 a.m., with lines starting to form around the school. Early in the morning hours, CBS 17 was able to talk with Durham’s board of education chair and the superintendent about this school year.
“We’ve been in the pandemic for three years even though last year when we came back we had to quarantine staff and students as well this year we are expecting to have some normalcy that our students will be in school for 180… days and make sure everybody is learning,” Superintendent Pascal Mubenga said.
But the journey wasn’t always easy.
“Getting to today was making sure we have staff for all of our buildings, making sure our buses were going to be fully—also staffed. SO there were some challenges here but we’re really excited about getting it started,” said Bettina Umstead, the chair of Durham Public Schools Board of Education.
Durham School Board also initiating a new dress code for this year.
“The changes that we made are really an opportunity for students to come and express themselves through their dress; but also make sure they are able to learn and not take away any time from that,” Umstead said.
Children spoke with us about the thrill of coming back to school.
“I’m looking forward to having nice teachers and people being all nice to each other,” said one third-grader, Lauren Dowdy.
“I like going out on the playground and talking to friends and stuff like that,” fourth-grader Tatum Cooper also said.
And parents and school staff said “Safety and Education” are their number one priorities. One of the smiling faces students saw when getting out of the car was Principal James Hopkins.
“Day one we’re making sure our students understand our academic expectation because this will be a school we hope will really symbolize the type of expectation the district has,” said Hopkins.
He talked about the rich history behind the schools foundation. The school is named after a family of black farmers who used to own the land. The Lyons Family leased portions of it out to tobacco farmers and contributed greatly to the growth and economic opportunities for Durham.
“This family epitomizes what resilience means to this country. And to be opening a school on the ground where they once worked; has been super encouraging,” Hopkins told CBS 17.
He said each students who walks across this threshold is now apart of that history.