First day of school for students for all schools in the Blount County system is Wednesday, Aug. 9; first day of school for students in Oneonta City Schools is Thursday, Aug. 10. The school will hold an open house for parents and the community on Aug. 8, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Following are some highly-condensed items it will be useful for parents to know, based on interviews with the two superintendents. Oneonta City Schools, interim Superintendent Tim Nabors: one big change then steady as you go
The one major change in procedure for Oneonta City Schools involves the routing of traffic for afternoon student pickup. (See diagram.)
All students in grades K-5 will be picked up in front of the school following the same procedure as last year. Teachers will control the process, supervise students, and direct traffic as necessary. Follow their signals. The only change for front pickup is moving fifth grade students from pickup in the back to pickup in the front.All students in grades 6-12 will be picked up in the back of the school. No students will be picked up at the side entrance to the high school, as previously. Drivers picking up students will enter the school property from Ala 75 as shown, then drive around behind the school and as directed by school personnel who will be present. After pickup, they should complete the circle and exit the school property by the same route they entered, again as shown. Follow signals and directions of school personnel at pickup and turning points. Superintendent comments “I prefer not to make significant or far-reaching changes, as interim superintendent. Dr. Michael Douglas did a phenomenal job and I don’t want to mess with success. My job is to keep the excellence here going forward. We’re not going to fall back a step. We’re going to keep moving forward. If there is a challenge here, it is the legacy of the system’s success. Everyone wants to come to school here. We’re outgrowing existing buildings. The system’s schools are going to have to have classrooms. There’s practically no empty space. There may be a little leeway in some elementary classes, but very little. We’re completely maxed out on classrooms. There are no more available. We’re going to have to build more.
“I’m tickled to be a part of this. It’s a great place to be and I’ve fallen in love with it. I’m excited for us to get everything in the groove quickly when school starts, and I’m looking forward to getting the band and football team cranked up on the field, and volleyball off and running and basketball a little later. The good part of this job is that the system itself is like a high-performance engine. I’m looking forward to seeing where we go.”
Blount County Schools, Superintendent Rodney Green: changes and challenges
• A new benchmark reading series will be introduced this year for kindergartners learning to read. Designed for grades K-3, it will be implemented successively in grades 1-3 over the next three years, following this year’s rollout in kindergarten.
• A new pre-K program will be introduced at Appalachian this year; it, too, will be implemented successively in other system schools as grant-based funding permits.
• New music teacher at Appalachian will debut a combined elementary/high school music program.
• New health science/sports medicine course available to both county school systems will expand existing program in that subject area at the Career Tech Center; additional instructor and course material will add capacity for up to 15 more students.
• The school bus fleet will expand by 32 buses; new buses have remote tracking/monitoring capabilities for greater safety of students and drivers; tracking/monitoring system will be retrofitted on existing buses as funding permits.
• Moving Blount County Forward paving projects have been completed, or are in the process of being completed, for school parking lots at Locust Fork, Cleveland, Susan Moore, Appalachian, and Hayden; projects are planned at Southeastern and J. B. Pennington, with the latter scheduled following completion of school renovations next year.
• The system is celebrating four years of improvement in ACT Aspire reading and math scores.
• Improvements in graduation rates are holding, with a 91 percent rate in 2015, followed by a 92 percent rate in 2016.
• Significant challenge: high enrollment growth at Southeastern will require a major capital outlay soon to add new classrooms, cafeteria, band room, and other facilities.
• Significant challenge: an effort to build a STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) instructional component is needed throughout the system; a start has been made with an instructor and STEM program at Susan Moore; efforts will be made to expand to other schools using existing personnel until funding for additional teachers is available.
J. B. Pennington update: Restoration work is continuing. Classes for grades 7-12 will begin Aug. 9 in a suite of mobile units installed for the duration of restoration work. Moving back into the renovated high school building may be possible by the spring of next year; if it is not possible by mid-March, it will be delayed until the next school year. Support for the renovation effort has been outstanding at all levels. Superintendent comments
“There are more new things in the works this year than any time within the last several years. The system is operating efficiently, and we’re in good financial condition. We’ve got 25 new, young teachers coming on board this school year. Also, I’d like to say I’m excited about the condition of the schools – they’re clean, and well-maintained, thanks to the hard work of principals, teachers, maintenance crews, and custodial personnel. It’s a very nurturing environment for learning, and I’m proud of it.”