Northside’s history continues

As Norris Trice sat among fellow alumni at the opening dedication ceremony for the new Northside Elementary School on Sept. 21, childhood memories came flooding back to him.

The former pastor said his time at the original school from 1949 to 1950 was a lot like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Trice said the teachers played a large part in raising the elementary school students, keeping in close contact with the parents.  He said he remembers one teacher insisting that he clean his room at home.

“They loved their children,” he said.  “I just miss them.”

Amid his memories of playing on the playground, Trice said he also remembers prayer being a significant part of the school day.  He said students used to attend a devotional period every day.

Trice said building a new Northside Elementary means a lot to him as he was able to watch the original all-black school transition into the integrated one it is today.

“I have seen how progress has been made,” he said.

The original school was built in 1924 using funds from the surrounding black community as well as a grant from Julius Rosenwald, a businessman and advocate for the education of African-American children in the rural South.

The original name of the school was Orange County Training School, and by 1933, more than 500 students attended the school.  By 1945, eight more classrooms had been added to accommodate the influx of students.

The school’s name would change to Orange County High School and then to Lincoln High School in 1949.

The school eventually became Northside Elementary, housing grades one through six, after a new Lincoln High School was built in 1951.

The elementary school closed soon after mandatory school integration took effect in 1966.

Jeffrey Nash, the executive director of community relations for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said the town saw a need for the new elementary school due to a growing student population and began planning in 2008.

Annette Smith, a Chapel Hill resident who attended Northside in 1955, said she has fond memories of the school. 

She said she used to live near St. Paul’s African Methodist Episcopal Church on South Merritt Mill Road and would walk to the school’s Caldwell Street location, a distance of about a mile.

Smith said she is glad Northside’s history is continuing with the new building.

“It feel good,” she said.  “I enjoyed the time there.”

To keep its history alive, the new school has a glass case filled with artifacts, including old photos and the original cornerstone of the 1924 building.

Northside is the 11th elementary school to be built in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and officially opened for students on Aug. 26.

Betsy Davis, a Chapel Hill resident, attended Northside from first to sixth grade starting in 1946.  Like Smith, she said she also walked to school from her home on Hillsborough Street.

Davis said her teachers pushed her to reach her full potential.  “The teachers encouraged us to go beyond.”

She said she is glad the school was rebuilt and that it needed to be.

“This is where I came from, and we never forgot our roots.”



Students crossing, horns honking

Sim Bowden put on his neon traffic jacket early Wednesday morning, picked up a handheld stop sign, and waited at the street corner–watching for parents and children crossing to the other side. 

With a genuine smile, the Durham resident warmly greeted the pedestrians and ushered them safely across the street to Estes Elementary School. This has been a part of his morning routine since 1999.

“They call me Mr. B,” he said.

Bowden said traffic on Estes Drive can get hectic, and drivers do not always act responsibly.

“It’s like a gun.  You can’t blame the crime on the gun,” he said.  “It’s not the traffic.  It’s the people.”

Bowden said he often sees drivers speeding through the school zone and ignoring the road signs.  He said it’s his job to keep pedestrians, especially elementary school students, safe in these situations.

“There’s no excuse” for the bad driving, he said.  “You can’t do that with kids around.”

Crystal Martinez-Ramos, another crossing guard for Estes Elementary, said the traffic in the area is a mess and that her job is necessary for student safety.

“The kids wouldn’t make it across the road,” she said.

Martinez-Ramos said she once faced a situation where a driver ran a stop sign and nearly hit her and a child in the street.

Todd LoFrese, assistant superintendent of support services in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said Estes Elementary and Phillips Middle, both on Estes Drive, often deal with traffic congestion, especially at arrival and dismissal times.

He said crossing guards like Bowden and Martinez-Ramos help with the situation, and students are taught safety skills at school.

Amy Fox, a Chapel Hill resident whose daughter attends kindergarten at Estes Elementary, said she thinks parents’ main concerns lie with the traffic in the area.

She said the crossing guards help to ensure her child’s safety.

“I don’t think they’re in danger,” she said.  “The crossing guards are wonderful.”

Chapel Hill resident Shontay Johnston also said she appreciates the crossing guards.  Johnston’s son is in kindergarten at Estes Elementary as well.

“The kids love (Martinez-Ramos),” she said. “She’s great.”

Johnston said she drops her son off early to avoid the traffic congestion at the school arrival time.

Jonathan Enns, principal of Phillips Middle School, said Estes Drive experiences crowded traffic because it is the only east-west corridor in the area between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Franklin Street.

He said the middle school has replaced its crossing guard with the school resource officer in the hope that drivers will pay more attention to a police officer.

“People are going to heed that person a little more,” he said.

The congestion is expected to worsen as the Town of Chapel Hill moves forward with development plans for Carolina North, a mixed-use campus located at the corner of Estes Drive and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, said Enns.

He said school officials have discussed the impact on the schools on Estes Drive with a steering committee responsible for planning the development in the area.

“The main thing is keeping schools in mind,” he said.

First full day of pre-K in CHCCS (full story)

It is just another normal day for Chapel Hill resident Lakeshia Walker as she grasps her 4-year-old daughter’s hand, leading her to pre-kindergarten class.

Walker’s mind is at ease, as she said she is confident in the quality of the education her daughter is receiving.

“The teachers are great,” she said.  “I can tell she learns a lot.”

Walker also said her daughter, who is starting her second year at Ephesus Elementary School, enjoys her time in school.

“She loves it.  She (doesn’t) want to leave,” she said.

Amid smiles and screams, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools welcomed pre-kindergarten students for their first full day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Bill Frenzel, director of the Pre-K/Head Start program in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said Sept. 3 was the first day teachers had full classes, and students were in the classroom from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

He said extended care also started that day, meaning students had supervision as early as 7:30 a.m. and as late as 5:30 p.m.

On August 29 and 30, pre-K teachers only had about half of their students in the classroom at a time, and the school day was shortened by about an hour with no extended care offered, Frenzel said.

The Pre-K/Head Start program receives both local and federal funding and also offers care for special needs children.  Eligibility is largely based on family income.

Frenzel said Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has 11 elementary schools, including a bilingual school, each of which is involved in the program based on availability of space.

He said the school system increased the program by a classroom size to accommodate the roughly 230 pre-K students enrolled this year, which is more than last year.  Regular classrooms can have a maximum of 15 students, and special needs classrooms can have as many as eight.

Teachers play a large part in the quality of education students receive, Frenzel said.

“All of our teachers have pre-k licensure,” he said.  “I think that level of knowledge makes a big difference in what happens in the classroom.”

Ephesus Elementary School principal Victoria Creamer said school staff works hard to acclimate pre-K students to their new environment.

She said the biggest challenges for students lie in following the routines and separation from their parents.

“They got to run through their routine in smaller groups,” she said.  “That’s sort of a big transition piece.”

She also said the lead pre-K teachers visit students’ homes twice a year to meet with families and learn more about their students.

Creamer said that, as the principal, she is the on-site administrator of the school, but the pre-K program is mostly separate from her jurisdiction.

“The teachers did a lot of work,” she said. “We try to do just business as normal.”

Jennifer Allred, a pre-K teacher at Ephesus Elementary and a Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools 2012-2013 Teacher of the Year, said she has mixed feelings about the dynamics of her class this year.

“I’m interested to see what it’s like,” she said.  “I’m a little apprehensive.”

Although Allred has taught middle school in the past, she said she knows she’s in the right place.

“I felt like I could make a bigger impact (in pre-K),” she said.