Ocean Drive Elementary in North Myrtle Beach abuzz with activity on first day of school

08/20/2014 7:39 PM

08/21/2014 5:54 AM

Thousands of Horry and Georgetown County children went back to school Wednesday, showing off shiny new sneakers while running into new and old friends.

Elementary students in North Myrtle Beach also had another new thing to show off: three remodeled and rebranded schools.

Ocean Drive Elementary was changed during the summer from North Myrtle Beach Primary to an elementary school that services grades Pre-K to fifth. The school was buzzing with activity by 7 a.m. Wednesday as students and parents lined up near the front door, waiting for the opening bell.

“I miss summer, but I’m excited to see my friends,” said Riley Fort, a second-grader. Riley’s mom, Allison Saxon, said the switch to a full elementary school will benefit Riley and other children in the area.

“Now all her friends from the neighborhood are going to be here, and she can stay at this school until she finishes fifth grade,” Saxon said.

North Myrtle Beach’s former primary, elementary and intermediate school buildings were upgraded this summer, as about $5.6 million was being spent to convert all three schools to serve multiple grade levels. A committee of parents and school officials last year recommended adding attendance lines for the area to better use the space, ease overcrowding and achieve other benefits.

The change for the first time alters the configuration of the North Myrtle Beach cluster, which has mirrored that of the Myrtle Beach cluster, where all students attend the same schools. North Myrtle Beach Primary served students in pre-kindergarten through first grade, while students in grades two and three attended North Myrtle Beach Elementary School (now Riverside Elementary School), and those in grades four and five went to North Myrtle Beach Intermediate School (now Waterway Elementary School).

Kathleen Siler had taught art at North Myrtle Beach Primary for four years and said she is excited about the switch to grades K-5 – especially because it gives her a chance to see old friends again.

“This year I’ll be getting back students that left me two years ago,” Siler said. “Everyone is excited about their friends and siblings starting in the same school.”

Many parents expressed relief at not having to coordinate several different drop offs and pick ups for their children, since elementary-aged kids now attend the same schools.

“For parents, it’s great because there’s only one schedule you have to manage,” said Samantha Slapnik, parent of a second-grader and a fifth-grader. “It’s a lot of change, but it’s going to be fun.”

“This is the only year my kids will be in school together, so they better enjoy it,” Slapnik joked.

Along with structural upgrades, the school nabbed a new, bright paint job that incorporated light greens, blues and oranges – a color scheme that delights Ashley Case, who used to teach at the intermediate school.

“They’ve done such a great job of putting everything together,” Case said. “The building is just beautiful.”

With brand new speakers and a desk full of school supplies, the students also seemed excited to start the year. Fifth-grader Cameron Watts didn’t like waking up early in the morning, but took some joy from returning to her former first grade school in the form of a chicken biscuit.

“I’m okay with going back here because now I can get Chik-fil-A in the morning.”

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