In between hiring teachers and writing her new school’s handbook, principal Mel Leach is meeting with parents whose children will be coming to Scotts Ridge Elementary School under her leadership this fall.
Leach looked ready to steer children in the right direction while sporting clothing tied to the school mascot of a sailor. She wore a white Scotts Ridge Elementary School apron emblazoned with a ship’s wheel and “sailors” banner, as well as a captain’s hat.
Speaking later about the new school on Apex Barbecue Road set to open this fall, she kept up the sea-faring theme.
“I want to get rocking and rolling so we can set our sails,” said Leach, mixing metaphors while employing one of the many nautical plays on words that roll off her tongue.
Leach has 33 years in education, including 13 in Wake County. She was principal of Green Hope Elementary for the last five years and has worked at Olive Chapel and Turner Creek elementary schools.
She helped open Turner Creek, as the assistant principal, as well as another school in Texas.
Leach thinks her third time opening a new school will be the smoothest because of her experience and the semester-plus she’s had to prepare.
About 100 parents came to meet Leach last week at Olive Chapel Elementary, one of the schools that will feed students to the new school. The Scotts Ridge attendance zone will reunite neighborhoods that had sent students to Baucom, Turner Creek and Apex elementary schools. Two other meetings at Baucom and Apex were postponed because of weather.
Leach emphasized that recruiting volunteers to help at the school will ease the transition of the opening.
One bilingual woman at the meeting volunteered her skills as a translator, which appeared to make Leach’s night.
Talking at a near-shout to be heard over the children playing in the back of the media center, Leach answered questions about the bell schedule, transportation, security and more.
“If you take any one thing away from tonight, it’s that kids are number one,” Leach said. “Number one in our hearts, souls and minds.”
The school will be one of the most secure in the county, she said, with 15 to 20 cameras and electronic locks on the doors, so the front office can control who gets in or out.
Every classroom in the $25 million school also will be equipped with a 70-inch television, making for far more entertaining morning announcements than a PA system.
“Our kids are going to be doing the morning news program,” Leach said.
Building a community
Although some parents are not excited about moving their children into a new school, there has been less commotion than usual over Scotts Ridge.
Two mothers at the Olive Chapel meeting said they don’t have any worries, except the minor complaint that Scotts Ridge has a traditional calendar and they both prefer year-round.
“Very excited,” said Amy Grim, who will have a third-grader and kindergartener at Scotts Ridge in the fall. “No concerns.”
Paula Currie, whose daughter currently attends Salem Elementary through a school choice program, said she’s excited for her rising second-grader to be closer to home at Scotts Ridge, with the other kids in their neighborhood.
“It’ll be nice,” Currie said.
Leach said she’s aiming for the kind of community feel Currie is looking forward to.
Many children will walk to school; the large Scotts Mill neighborhood is directly across the street.
“It reminds me of growing up, back in the ’60s and ’70s,” Leach said. “Everybody walked to school, and it was a great opportunity to share stories and make friends.”
And even though the school has a capacity of 650, Leach said it will open above capacity, with 700 or more students in prekindergarten through fifth grades.
In the months before the first day of school, Leach will be hiring teachers, custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, as well as keeping an eye on the progress of construction.
Before the snow came, Leach said, the building was supposed to be ready by July 17.
That would give staff a month to move in, set up their rooms and make sure everything works.
“I wish it was earlier,” Leach said. “I’m glad it’s not later. … We’re going to be waiting, all of us, at 9 a.m. on July 17 to get in.”
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran
For more on the school, including videos with parent questions, go to scottsridgeelementary.weebly.com.