Countdown to first day of school

Parent, school officials offer insight on getting ready for students’ returns


School starts on Monday in Volusia County and parents, students, teachers, faculty, staff, administrators are busy with last-minute preparations.

Jenice Giddens is shown with her sons Zavier Mincey, left, Ajai Harrell and daughter Liala Woods at a Daytona Beach Buccaneers Pop Warner football practice. The busy mom is the coordinator of the cheerleaders.

One of those parents is Jenece Giddens, a single mom of three kids who works as a bus driver for Volusia County Schools.

Giddens is doing all that she can to get her sons Zavier Mincey (sixth grade) and Ajai Harrell (seventh grade) prepared for Silver Sands Middle in Port Orange. Her 2-year-old daughter Liala Woods will be headed to preschool at Friendship Academy in Daytona Beach.

She admits that it can be a challenge.

“You have to plan in advance and you try too, but at the end of the day you still have your bills and life responsibilities and other things that can stop you from doing everything in advance,” Giddens remarked.

She added, “You want to get everything by the first week but you often can’t. You normally get them enough to wear and enough supplies at least for the first week, especially clothing.”

Critical time
For school personnel, it’s also crunch time, making sure everything is ready for kids to return to the classroom.

The City of Daytona Beach continued to give away backpacks last Saturday at Daisy Stocking Park. The event included games and safety demonstrations. The last giveaway is Saturday, Aug. 12, at Sunnyland Park.

Dr. Jerry Picott, principal at Campbell Middle School, said this week that his school is finalizing its master schedule, which decides the classroom each student will be placed.

“We are also finalizing facility needs like cleaning floors, having all lights working, desks in class rooms, etc. We are also making sure we have hired all faculty and staff needed and that classrooms are set up,” he related.

“We are also working on the first week of school making sure everything is ready to go. The first week of school is very critical for us.’’

‘Constantly in school’
Dr. Emma McCoy runs the Odyssey Lab at Galaxy Middle in DeLand. She pointed out that teachers are always preparing to teach.

“Teachers are constantly training and taking classes. We have certifications and courses of our own. We also have to learn about what’s new on the curriculum. Teachers are also taking college classes and pursuing master’s and doctorate degrees. We are constantly in school,’’ she said.

Advice for parents
McCoy has some advice for parents to help students have a successful school year.

“Parents need to stress the importance of school to their kids. They also need to talk about their cell phones. The importance of putting them away and not letting them be a distraction,” she noted.

“They also should make sure that the kids are eating properly and getting the right amount of sleep. Finally, parents should be supportive of teachers.’’

Attend orientation
Picott agrees. “The thing is for the families with the younger school-age children is to go to orientation and see what students are required to have, especially on the first day.”

He added, “Orientation gives students and parents the chance to meet faculty and staff before school starts as well as an opportunity to get familiarized in a new setting.”

Parent Portal
For students who catch the bus, information on routes is available through the Parent Portal on the Volusia County Schools’ website.

According to the website, the portal is “a tool designed to enhance the communication and involvement of parents in their child’s education in Volusia County Schools.’’

Through the portal, parents can monitor their child’s progress in school, attendance, discipline, academic history, graduation verification, and standardized test results in a secure password protected environment.

Immunizations needed
Another thing that parents must do is make sure that their kids have all their immunizations up to date. If they aren’t, the students won’t be allowed to attend school.

“My boys play football with the Daytona Beach Pop Warner Buccaneers so they get their physicals and immunizations in June. If you have Medicaid or some type of health insurance, that usually covers it. You can’t go to school without the updated immunizations,” Giddens remarked.

Free immunizations are available at the Department of Health in Volusia County. Walk-in clinic hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information is available on its website at

Free supplies
For parents who still need some supplies, there are giveaways that help with school supplies. They often provide things like backpacks, some underwear, pencils and paper.

The Mayor’s Backpack Give-A-Way in Daytona Beach is one such event. The city plans to give away about 3,000 backpacks with supplies during four different events. The last one is schedule for Aug. 12 at Sunnyland Park from 9 a.m. until noon.

For more information about Volusia County Schools, log on to the website at


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