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Johnston begins another school year

West Clayton Elementary students wave goodbye to their families on the first day of the 2023-24 school year. Johnston County Public Schools photo

SMITHFIELD — Johnston County’s public schools kicked off the 2023-24 term on Aug. 28, welcoming tens of thousands of students to their 48 schools.

Rain showers moving through the county could not dampen the excitement, the schools said in a news release.

Students had their new backpacks filled with supplies, and parents snapped those first-day-of-school pictures. 

Jounas Acosta Martinez is a fourth-grader at West Clayton Elementary School. “I am very excited to see my friends,” Martinez said. “I’m excited for math too.”

Selma Middle School Principal Stephen Baker could barely contain his enthusiasm. “It’s like a marathon, and we are ready to go,” he said. “It feels like when you’re at the starting gate and you’re just waiting for that ‘BAM!’ to get running.”

A lot of hard work took place over the summer, the schools said. That work included cleaning each school from top to bottom and working on construction projects. Also, administrators and faculty attended the annual leadership conference to plan for the school year. 

For South Johnston High School senior Gracie Barbour, opening day came with mixed emotions: It was her last first day of school as a Trojan. “It is a very bittersweet moment,” she said. “But I am so excited for this year to come and all of the academics I can get into.”

Superintendent Eric Bracy was out and about visiting schools on Monday. “The first day of school is a special time of the year,” he said. “It’s always good to see our students and parents back in the buildings. We’re going to have our best year yet.”