By Martie Thompson

Students across Duval County, including local Mandarin schools, returned to school on Monday, Aug. 15. According to District 7 School Board Member Lori Hershey, for the first time in two years, all schools were open in the traditional sense.

“It was so exciting to see parents walking their students to class on the first day,” Hershey said. “There was an energy that has been missing these past few years.”

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Hershey was scheduled to be a substitute at Crown Point Elementary on the first day of school, but since the school was fully staffed she was happy to spend her time opening the door and greeting visitors and welcoming everyone back to school.

At Crown Point Elementary School, home to about 750 students, Principal Brett Hartley said the first day of school is always one of his school’s best days of the year, and this year was no exception. 

“Everyone was excited in the building including teachers, parents, and especially students,” Hartley said. “This year, parents were allowed back into the building to walk their students because it does give parents a sense of relief in making sure their babies arrive to the correct class. I can already tell this is going to be an amazing school year!”

Hartley said the school is adopting a new curriculum for reading and for math this year, as well as implementing the Four Disciplines of Execution for Educators to help students and teachers reach their goals. 

“At Crown Point we will continue, as last year, to implement our Leader in Me program to inspire our Panthers to be their best academically and socially,” Hartley said. “Also this year Crown Point has new safety and security measures in place to ensure the safety of our students, staff, and all those who enter our building.”

Principal Tammy Haberman of Loretto Elementary School said the first day of school was “perfect.’
“It was great to see parents walking their students to class for the first time since COVID,” Haberman said. “We also were able to bring our Boo Hoo Breakfast back for our kindergarten parents for the first time since 2019.”

Loretto students will see a newly reorganized and redecorated media center this year. Haberman said it is a welcoming and cozy environment and students will be able to find their favorite books more easily.

This year is an “Ocean of Possibilities” at Greenland Pines Elementary School, according to Principal Michelle Hinkley.

“Greenland Pines had an amazing first day! We welcomed back 674 students,” said Hinkley. “The school was filled with excitement as students returned. Our mascot was even in attendance to welcome students back.”

Hinkley was pleased that the school was able to host an in-person orientation the Friday before school started for families to meet the teacher, drop off supplies and pick up car tags. Over the summer, Greenland Pines had a new playground installed, which second through fifth grade students will enjoy climbing all over.

Districtwide, officials will continue to closely monitor the transmission of COVID-19 in each local community; however, the COVID-19 case tracking dashboard, nightly calls, and elementary classroom letters about individual cases at schools will be discontinued. Families can still access local positivity rates on the Florida Department of Health website at

New this year, students will have free access to the district WIFI to do homework on their laptops while riding the bus. There will be posters on each bus with instructions on accessing the network.

Also, there is a new way parents must update their contact info in order for them to receive automated calls from schools/district. These calls include attendance calls as well as calls notifying them of a possible emergency. Visit for more information.

Finally, because of a national bus driver shortage, the district expects students and families may continue to experience several impacts. These include longer bus rides and wait times, as well as bus delays. The district will continue informing families of delays through its Bus Delays webpage,

Photo courtesy Mary Eyler
Crown Point Principal Brett Hartley with a group of third graders ready for the first day of school. 

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