Bowie Elementary School principal Tina Jones woke up the morning of Aug. 17 ready to begin her 20th year as a principal in Abilene ISD, yet she was looking forward to her 20th “first day” as much as she was her first.

“I was just as excited about today as my first day as a principal,” said Jones, who spent five years as the principal at College Heights and started her 15th year at Bowie on Aug. 17. “I still love the work, and you have to because this job is a lot of work. But it’s also a lot of fun, and I still enjoy it.”

That was the sentiment throughout AISD as administrators, teachers, and staff welcomed students back for the first day of the 2022-23 school year.

Jones said that the first day at Bowie had gone as smoothly as possible, even with some new safety and security protocols put in place to keep children on the campus as safe as possible. AISD Superintendent Dr. David Young has been very intentional in making the safety and security of each of the district’s facilities an even higher priority for everyone in the district.

“We’ve put some practices into place, but the parents have been very supportive of that because they know we’re working to keep their kids safe, and that those things are in the best interest of the safety of their children,” Jones said.

Jones also welcomed several new faces to campus this year, and she said those new staff members are ready to make a positive impact.

“They’re ready to jump and get the job done and serve our kids,” Jones said. “That’s what we’re all here for – these kids.”

At Craig Middle School, Deb Stewart began her third year as the principal with what she described as the continuation of a great start to the 2022-23 school year for her campus.

“I said earlier that we had the best first day with teachers on Aug. 9 that we’ve had, and today has been one of the smoothest starts I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “Part of it is that I have the same administrative team, but also our Foundations Team took ownership of how we would launch well and thought out the logistics of what we would need to have a successful start.”

The Foundations Teams are part of the Safe and Civil Schools program, which AISD employs. Foundations teams across the district are tasked with managing the common areas of a school building such as hallways, restrooms, cafeterias, etc.

With 24 certified staff new to Craig this year – including five new to the profession – the work of the Foundations team in providing everyone on campus with access to Google slides of policies and procedures made it better for everyone, Stewart said.

Craig and the other three middle schools in AISD – Clack, Madison, and Mann – are all part of a study the district has taken up by the district to look at the middle school model. Over the next several months a committee led by Middle Years Transition Specialist Alison Camp will be studying how AISD can best serve 5th-8th graders, either by moving to K-4th, 5th-6th (intermediate), and 7th-8th (middle school) campuses or keeping the model as it currently exists.

Stewart said she saw some wide eyes among the school’s incoming sixth-graders, but those had been lessened by the “Back to School Bash” that took place two nights earlier.

“We had a great turnout by our sixth-grade group, and we had a positive, uplifting vibe,” Stewart said. “Those sixth-graders are going to be overwhelmed by everything, not that it’s just a new campus or that they’re changing classes and moving through hallways, but also because they have to take ownership of some things they didn’t have to before. But we’re here to take care of them and help them through the start here at Craig.”