Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FIRST DAY BACK; Students Return to School Ready to Tackle a New Year Transfers Give DA Arts Magnet an Enrollment Record of 1,170

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FIRST DAY BACK; Students Return to School Ready to Tackle a New Year Transfers Give DA Arts Magnet an Enrollment Record of 1,170

Article excerpt

Byline: TOPHER SANDERS

Doors opened without a hitch Monday at schools in four First Coast counties, officials said.

Students in Duval, Baker, Clay and Nassau counties strapped on backpacks and headed back to classrooms.

At Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Principal Jackie Cornelius stood outside, directing drop-off traffic and welcoming students back to school.

It's important for students to feel at home at their school, she said.

"From the first 15 minutes when someone walks into your building, they judge whether it's a friendly place or the kid feels welcome," Cornelius said.

A record number of students - 1,170 - were scheduled to attend Douglas Anderson this year, Cornelius said. Among them are 50 student transfers from high schools that received two F grades on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in the past four years.

Raines, Andrew Jackson and Forrest high schools had to offer the transfer option to students after failing the FCAT.

Hardy Cobige, 16, transferred from Raines to attend Douglas Anderson and study visual arts.

"He's very, very excited. My baby is excited," said Patrice Brown, Cobige's grandmother. Brown beamed at her grandson as she spoke.

A smile stretched across Cobige's face, too.

Attending Douglas Anderson will make him a better artist, Cobige said.

"I can learn new things and I can get better at my visual arts," he said. "I know I can be really good if I come here."

Brown said she was happy to have Cobige at Douglas Anderson.

"Raines is a failing school and they took the arts out of the school, really," she said. "And he's an excellent artist.

"The success rate that Douglas Anderson has for my grandson to get into a college ... it enhances his life and gives him a better chance, and that's what he needs."

The first day of school was a dream come true for 16-year-old Jennifer Girouex, who transferred to Douglas Anderson from Andrew Jackson.

She will studying singing.

Girouex said her first day at Douglas Anderson lived up to all her expectations.

"It was really great," she said after school Monday. …

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