Anna, 14, who is a freshman at Marietta High School, was one of the projected 9,100 students who attended school Wednesday in the Marietta City School System. That projection is up from last year’s enrollment of 8,800 students, according to the school district.
Anna said she’ll be waking up about half an hour later for the rest of the school year. But on her first day she wanted to give herself at least an hour to be sure to be prepared and awake.
Because Anna is on the freshman cheerleading squad, she didn’t have to make many decisions about her attire, she said. Cheerleaders are required to wear their uniforms the first day, with their hair in a ponytail held up by a traditional blue and white bow.
“It’ll be my second day outfit that I’ll have to worry about,” Anna said.
Anna’s mind was filled with other worries Wednesday morning. Anna said the long hallways and high ceilings seemed too big and very different from Marietta Middle School, but she was “more excited than nervous.”
“But, I’m excited for the change,” she said.
High school has already spurred change for Anna. She said math was her favorite subject in middle school, but now she can’t wait to practice writing in language arts. She ran cross country in middle school, but at Marietta High School will cheer at pep rallies and school events for the first time.
Anna said joining the cheerleading squad for the first time this year gave her a head start at making new friends.
“I didn’t know anyone, but after the cheer camp this summer — almost the whole team, I made really good friends with them,” she said.
As Anna sat in her kitchen at 6:40 a.m., eating a cinnamon roll for breakfast before leaving for school, her parents, Leigh Ann and Ray Worden, listened to their daughter talk about her past.
Leigh Ann Worden, a stay-at-home mom, said it seemed the days when her daughter was a middle-schooler had only been a moment ago.
“It’s bittersweet,” Leigh Ann Worden said. “You don’t want it to go by so fast.”
Breakfast only lasted a few minutes before Anna’s mom had to take her 12-year-old son, Jack, to Marietta Middle School, but she didn’t leave without a few last words of advice to her daughter.
“I’ll be saying my prayers for you, but I know it’ll go well,” Leigh Ann Worden said. “And don’t forget your lunch.”
Soon after, it was Anna’s turn to go to school, and Ray Worden, who owns Worden’s Picture Framing, rushed out the door to drive her to school.
As she hopped out of the car in front of the high school, Principal Leigh Colburn greeted Anna, along with the other students arriving on campus.
Colburn said one of her goals for the year was to increase the scores her students make on standardized tests, but she also wanted to create a community at the school.
“Schools aren’t just about quantitative measures,” Colburn said. “I want them to have a safe and happy school year and make positive memories here.”
Earl McKinney, a junior, said he was ready to start the day even though he had the “usual first-day jitters.”
“I’m really ready to connect with my people again, just friends that I haven’t seen this summer,” McKinney said.
Outside the front door of the school, junior Amari Thomas stood comparing class schedules with her friends.
“Looking at who I have classes with is the most important thing for the first day of school,” Thomas said.
Thomas said she didn’t worry about dressing up on the first day.
“I didn’t want to wake up this morning when I looked at the clock,” Thomas said. “So, I just came (dressed) in whatever (clothing).”
At Marietta Middle School, students were looking sleepy about halfway through the school day. Principal Forrestella Taylor stopped by a classroom and tried to lighten the mood of the yawning eighth-graders.
“What happened?” Taylor asked when the class groaned at her greeting of good morning. “The first period class was all excited.”
Taylor said she hasn’t been able to sleep the past few nights because of her excitement for the start of the new school year.
“The word excitement doesn’t even capture it,” Taylor said. “I was like a kindergartener on the first day of school today.”
Taylor was the assistant principal for ninth grade at Marietta High School before becoming principal at the middle school during the 2013-14 school year. The experience showed her the expectations ninth-graders need to meet.
“I know what eighth graders need to know to be successful in high school,” Taylor said.
Eighth-grader Rayner Johnson said he was excited on the first day of school. But Johnson said he couldn’t wait to get to the end of the year, when two important events would take place: one is moving up to high school and the second is the eighth-grade dance.
“I’m excited for the social,” Johnson said “I know who I’m going to ask already.”