New school year to bring a few changes

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SCHS makes changes to courses, several facility upgrades show up in district

By Todd Martin

As students try to stuff in late nights, parties and few more trips to the pool during the final five days of summer vacation, the Shelby County Public Schools employees are hard at work getting everything ready for teachers to report on Tuesday and students on Wednesday.

The change that has caused the most chatter among parents comes from Shelby County High School, where the administration has decided to alter course titles. No longer will there be honors and regular classes, but, instead, all classes will be taught at either honors or Advanced Placement levels. The change does not affect students at Collins High School.

“The only real difference is that instead of three levels of courses, we’ll have two: honors and AP,” SCHS Principal Eddie Oakley said. “What we’re trying to do is hold all our students to higher standards. Our goals are to get students college and career ready, and if they’re not going to college, they need the same education to enter the workforce and start a career.”

Several parents have called both the school and The Sentinel-Newsto enquire about the change.

“The kids at the top, it seems to me, this will bring them down,” said Ann Ruble, whose son would be a sophomore at the school this year. “My husband and I have always been a big fan of public schools. We both went through them and our children have too.

“AP classes and teachers have always been great, and the honors classes have been really good, too, because those kids are trying to prepare for college and genuinely want to learn. It seems like there have been so many experiments at Shelby County over the last several year.”

Oakley said the changes will adjust what students are in what classes, but the goals for teachers remain the same with every class and every student.

“We’re going by the quality or common core standards that are set nationwide,” he said. “It’s the same standards for all students, and every kid has to master those standards. We just want to hold all our students to the same standards.

“The goal we set for ourselves is one year of growth in one year’s time. So it’s up to our teachers to be able to challenge these students and help them grow whether they are on the accelerated end or not. But every kid needs to be pushed to grow.

“All our kids are capable of handling the rigor and challenges of these courses.”

At Collins, the biggest change students will see is a slightly relaxed dress code.

New Principal John Leeper met with the school’s Site-Based Decision-Making Council, and members agreed that the requirement of a collared shirt could be dropped.

“An appropriate shirt for school... that’s really all we care about,” he said.

The new dress code much more closely resembles the SCHS code now, but both schools do still require khaki/navy pants.

Lisa Smith, the district’s chief academic officer/deputy superintendent, said district-wide there will be few changes this year.

“We’re continuing to work on the new standards with the common core standards, and our teachers have been doing more professional development and continuing to work with Thinking Strategies,” she said. “Through June and July we had another one hundred and twenty teachers begin the process on Thinking Strategies, and it’s just a wonderful way to help our students.”

Another thing Smith said students and parents could anticipate this year is an increased focus on enrichment, which is working with the students at the top to make sure they remain engaged and learning at the level they need to be.

“We’re trying to make sure that teachers have the tools they need to continue to push those students, so they can continue to grow at least one level each year, just like our goal for every student,” she said.

Other things students can be on the look out for:

  • A new preschool playground at Wright Elementary.
  • A new playground at Heritage Elementary.
  • Simpsonville Elementary received a new gym floor.
  • SCHS got a new gym floor and a new logo in the center.
  • A new computer lab at The Education Center @ Cropper.