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Back to school: Final preparations under way for arrival of students

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By Scotty McDaniel

Though most families wait until the last couple weeks of summer break before getting ready for the new school year, the schools and the people who work in them have long been preparing to accommodate the students in a better way.

The normal summer routines of waxing floors, adding fresh paint here and there and thoroughly cleaning facilities were seen around the county, but some major changes are also are taking place.

East Middle School this summer was closed down for months of construction and renovation, but now Superintendent James Neihof confirms that it has its occupancy permit and is now open to students and staff as a newly labeled Energy Star school.

“It has new lighting, new tiles, new paint and a new heating-cooling system to provide an environment that research shows promotes academic achievement,” Assistant Superintendent Kerry Whitehouse said.

Every room has also been equipped with what is called Intelligent Classroom -- a projector in the ceiling and a white board so all the lessons can be technologically based for good student interaction.

The completion of the roof replacement project at Shelby County High School has been delayed because of rain, but it is expected to be finished in a matter of days. For safety, no work will be done until students leave the premises.

Though the facilities are improving, so are the people who work inside them.

Teachers return to their classrooms Wednesday, the day before students do. But Neihof said many teachers and administrators have spent much of the summer preparing for the new school year by attending workshops and seminars for professional development.

He said for students to get a quality education the staff needs to remember the Five Main Things: Curriculum Alignment, Instructional Norms, Professional Learning Community, Intervention and Enrichment.

“Intervention is for those students below proficiency. Enrichment is for those students above proficiency. Teachers pattern lessons and instructions based on individual student needs. All five goals work together to help our students be successful,” he said.

A two-day training session introduced new teachers in the district to the Five Main Things earlier this week, and Kerry Fannin, assistant superintendent for student achievement, said the new faculty supports the philosophy.

“They realized the level of expectation in this district and in our schools, but they also realize there is a level of support for them to achieve these goals,” he said.

There are plenty of new faces joining the school system this year. About 50 new teachers are on board, and there are new principals at SCHS, West Middle, Simpsonville Elementary and Southside Elementary. Painted Stone Elementary made its interim principal permanent, Martha Layne Collins high school named its principal a year in advance, and the principal job at Cropper Elementary is still pending.