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DECATUR SCHOOLS

Watch now: South Shores Welcome Wagon visits students before start of school year

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DECATUR — LaShunda Hall and her kids moved to Decatur last year, where Anita Brown, 9, and Eric Hunter Jr., 6, began attending South Shores School.

“We love South Shores,” Hall said. “Everyone was so welcoming and warm.”

On Thursday, Principal Kristi Mullinix and several teachers set out in school buses to visit students' homes, give them a school calendar and a goody bag, and welcome them to a new school year. The first day of school is Aug. 15.

Anita came onto the porch to give Nathan Schorfheide a bear hug, while Sara Kennedy greeted Hall and Eric.

Mullinix based the event on Project Success, a non-profit that used to be in Decatur, which held a district-wide event like it every August. District teachers would meet at Stephen Decatur Middle School to ride on school buses to their own students' homes, introduce themselves if necessary, and get acquainted before the first day of classes.

“We're going to welcome our kids back to school and let them know we're here and ready to welcome them and have them back in our building,” Mullinix said. “We're also working on attendance. We want everybody to know the importance. We have a goody bag for each kid.”

Though 72% of South Shores students have already registered, she said, that means 28% have not, and the visits also served as a reminder to parents that it's time to register if they haven't already. Online registration is available at dps61.org

Another benefit of the visits is to let teachers meet parents and see where the kids live, to help in forming relationships between school and home, she said.

“It's super-important,” she said. “Not only to see where their kids are living but to welcome them and say 'I'm here to say hi.'”

After the last couple of pandemic years, Mullinix said, it seems likely that this will be a fully normal school year without worries about sudden closures and returning to remote learning for COVID-related reasons, which is a big relief.

The building has had some extensive upgrades, too, with a new roof and windows and some new furniture, and bottle fillers instead of drinking fountains so kids can refill their bottles.

About a dozen teachers volunteered to be part of the effort in spite of not being required to, Mullinix said. South Shores students live in South Shores, the Rock Springs neighborhood and around Eisenhower High School, so they divided into teams with lists of addresses and boarded three Alltown buses to spread out and visit as many homes as possible. On a weekday morning, several families weren't at home, but the teams left the goody bags and calendars on front porches for them to find when they return.

Mullinix joked to her staff that she had no doubt they'd find the things.

“My kids would spot that right away,” she said. “'Hey, Mom, there's something on our porch.'”


Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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