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Students stood in long lines, some holding hands with their parents, as they waited for school doors to open for the first day of school at Wilson Preparatory Academy at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Wilson Prep is located at 2755 Tilghman Road and enrolls students from kindergarten to 11th grade.
"Greetings and welcome back," Daryl Woodard, founder and executive director, said cheerfully as students and parents walked in the door. "So glad to see you."
Many gave Woodard a high-five when they walked in.
"Our theme this year is 'take it to the next level, academically, athletically, socially and behaviorally - all the way around.'" Woodard said of his expectations for the 2017-18 school year. "Our teachers, staff and administration are all on the same page. This is all about the children."
Woodard said as he travels around the area, he is often met with parents who know how hard they work and want their children to go to WPA.
"The word is out that we care about each and every one of our students," Woodard said.
Michelle Artis said she was on pins and needles waiting to hear if her son, Derrick, would be picked to be a WPA scholar.
"I had heard about the reputation and I know it is the best, so I said I have got to get my son in that school," Artis said. "I got the email when I was at work. I was so excited I had to get up from my desk and go into the bathroom so I could give God the praise like I wanted to."
Artis said little Derrick is ready for kindergarten and knows the alphabets, colors and can read.
Shemika Davis has a third-grader and sixth-grader who were selected to attend Wilson Prep this year.
"I was so excited I screamed right out in my office," Davis said. "This is a great opportunity for my sons."
Dindy Perry, who has a sixth-grader, said she and her husband Xavier love WPA because they are so focused on academics.
"I like that my son will be able to transition from middle school to high school and have the same staff to look out for him," Perry said. "This is our first year here. I am glad he will be able to come to a school that will help him reach his goals for college."
The student body has increased by more than 250 scholars this fall bringing enrollment to more than 700. New students are chosen by lottery, as required by state law. Woodard said the waiting list is long for parents who want to their children to be enrolled.
"Today we have about 98 percent of our children to show up for the first day," Woodard said, smiling. "People are still on vacation and so it will take a few days to know how things will be. However, parents should not give up. There is still a chance somebody may not show up. When that happens, we go to the list and pick the next student. We just keep it moving."
Elementary school principal Beverly Woodard, who is not related to Daryl Woodard, said this school year is going to be even more exciting than last year.
"Every teacher is excellent and we have a lot planned for our students," Beverly Woodard said. "Children want to know that you care and that you will hear what they have to say. The little ones understand when you care about them."
Beverly Woodard has a third-grader who attends WPA and a nephew. She said she likes peeping in on them.
Shawan Woodard, associate director of WPA, said educators are expecting students to build upon the great work they have already done at the school.
"When you expect children to do well, they try to meet the expectations," Shawan Woodard said. "We can achieve even greater and we will."
Phillip Rountree, middle and high school principal, held a rally for students in the new gym. Students sat attentively and met all of the teachers for the new year.
"Get ready, because we are on the move," Rountree told the students. "I love each and every one of
you and I want you to see your future and be prepared to step right into it. Every one of you who want to go to college will do that. Believe it. So get ready to work hard."
WPA's students go from kindergarten through 11th grade. Next school year the 12th grade will be added.