The sweltering summer is winding down for students and teachers as local schools prepare for the upcoming academic year and registration activities. 

Instructors at Watson Chapel Junior High were in high spirits as they finished up last minute business in their classrooms on Friday.

A group of three teachers, Lacey Toney, Juanita Washington, and Tiffany Jackson, shared a moment outside of their closely-situated classrooms as they laughed and conversed before ending their workday.

“We’re going to have a wonderful principal. We have two new principals coming in,” said Washington, who foresaw a positive outcome for the new school year. “And I think they are wonderful principals, and we’re all going to be one big happy family. We’re going to love each other-“

“And take it to the next level,” Toney said.

“And we’re going to work together, and take it up higher,” Washington said.

A fourth Watson Chapel Junior High teacher, Raven Handley, turned the corner in time to join the women mid-conversation and chime in on their new school year expectations.

“We’re excited,” Toney said.

“We’re excited about it,” said the four in agreement, breaking into a round of applause and cheers.

The energy seemed to be universal among many schools across the Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel, White Hall and Dollarway school districts. Dollarway held a back-to-school bash on Saturday to welcome students with door prizes, school supplies and ice cream.

Candace Jones, Family Engagement Coordinator for Dollarway School District, said she looked forward to seeing new faces at Dollarway’s schools this year.

“I’m looking forward to meeting parents, and all the events we have scheduled this weekend,” said Jones, referring to the Back To School Bash hosted by Dollarway High School at the TOPPS Big Rec Center on 1000 Townsend Dr. on Saturday. “We’re collecting school supplies here and different places. We’re just excited. We have cheerleaders coming out to do a showcase. Parents and the community are going to be able to meet some of the athletes and the coaches.”

Meeting new pupils wasn’t the only thing on Jones’ agenda as she mentioned that the schools would have a new addition to their programs this year.

“We’re pushing a reading initiative, so we’ll have several books we’ll be giving away,” she said. “A lot of the teachers and new teachers will be turning out tomorrow to kind of meet the parents and the community.”

The back-to-school event drew dozens, as parked cars filled the parking lot and stretched down the side of the road Saturday morning — a turnout that school officials said supported the new year, fresh start feeling, which reverberated throughout faculty members at the school district.

Some lucky attendees won door prizes, including $50 gift cards, backpacks, sneakers and more. All four local school districts, Dollarway, Pine Bluff, Watson Chapel and White Hall, begin classes on Monday, Aug. 13.