Summer ends and school begins again for Blount County students on Aug. 19, according to Blount County Supt. Jim Carr.
Teachers will return on Aug. 12, and attend Teacher Institute at J.B. Pennington on Aug. 13.
For the upcoming school year, Carr admits the financial struggle remains.
“Our biggest challenge since 2008 is our funding continues to diminish, yet we are asked to do more with less each year,” he said. “We lost teacher units so we don’t have as many teachers in our schools and they are being asked to pick up more things like insurance and retirement, and their take-home pay has diminished.”
Despite the 2-percent raise for instructors this year, Carr says that won’t get them back to where they were four years ago.
However, Carr and elementary/curriculum professional development coordinator Donna Martin praised their teachers on continuing to do their job so well.
“No matter the decrease in funding, the teachers come back year after year,” Martin said.
Teachers are also asked to participate in professional development days throughout the school year, and the amount of professional development days is the most significant change to the Blount County calendar, according to Carr.
Last year’s school year included five teacher development days and this year that has doubled.
Many of those days will only be conducted after students dismiss at noon. Afterward, teachers will have time for training and development.
To cover the lost time on those four-and-a-half training days, Carr says students will have approximately seven minutes added to their normal school day.
“It’s really hard to try to have professional development days once the regular school year starts, and especially to do it with staff because the students are there,” Carr said. “This gives us a chance to get with all of our staff at a local school and train on certain topics.”
Martin says the focus for this year will be on implementing the college and career ready English language arts and content literacy standards. Last year, the college and career ready math standards were introduced.
“The focus on the academic standards and moving forward with this is definitely something to be excited about,” Carr said. “With the focus on college and career ready we also fully anticipate an increase in enrollment at our Career Tech Center.”
Carr says he has spoken with Johnny Pullen, the director of the center, and Pullen says there will be more participating this year at the center than there has been in the last five years.
“There’s a real interest in the center and we have a great school and programs that students are responding to very well.”