McDONOUGH — Nearly 40,000 students are expected to return to school Monday in the Henry County School System.
Families were briefed earlier this week during Open House events around Henry County about what to expect in the coming school year. School officials have noted three major changes affecting school system’s students.
They deem the changes positive steps forward in fulfilling the system mission of “ensuring success for each student.”
“There are a few changes, and the teachers are delineating those changes at Open House,” said Anne Wilson, principal of Unity Grove Elementary School in Locust Grove.
The school system plans to implement new three-tier bus schedule and new bell times, institute the state’s new Common Core Georgia Performance Standards curriculum, and inaugurate a virtual schooling program, called Impact Academy.
Common Core Curriculum
“Our biggest change for the new year is the implementation of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standard curriculum,” said Wilson.
The new curriculum will be taught in mathematics, English/language arts, science, and social studies, as well as in technical subjects. It is part of a state-led initiative developed two years ago in conjunction with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.
The goal, according to state education officials, is to establish a uniform set of expectations for what students will learn no matter where they attend school and to ensure that students are ready for college and careers after high school graduation.
“These standards will better prepare our students for success beyond high school and allow us to see how we measure up against other states,” said State School Superintendent John Barge. “Also, because we are such a transient society, these standards can help ensure some level of consistency in what is taught from state to state.”
The standards have been adopted by 46 states, the U.S. Department of Defense’s education programs and three U.S. territories. Georgia formally adopted the standards in July 2010, and began training educators on the new standards in March 2011.
Principal Wilson said adapting to the new curriculum is made easier as the state’s previous standards are closely aligned with the national curriculum model. She said, however, successfully transitioning to the new curriculum will require family and community support.
Wilson advises parents commit to spend time with their children every evening by going over their school work.
“They should make sure the child knows the parent is in partnership with their teacher,” said Wilson. “I suggest they read with their children every night for at least 20 minutes.
It helps improve vocabulary development, and gives them the opportunity to ask questions of their children,” she continued. “That really will make a difference in all subject areas, even math. In the end, it allows families to spend time together, and it shows kids that school is important.”
The school administrator said counselors at her school plan to provide parent workshops this school year. The school will revive its annual family reading night in winter, as well.
The system will offer a non-traditional schooling option for high school students, known as Impact Academy. Officials said the option is virtual program designed to meet the needs of students and parents who want learning options that provide greater flexibility related to time and place where learning occurs.
Impact Academy offers the option of full-time virtual learning. For students preferring part-time enrollment, the options include: dual enrollment courses through local colleges, virtual dual enrollment, and elective courses taken at their home school.
Officials said Impact Academy students may also participate in extra-curricular activities at their home school, and would be able to learn virtually with highly qualified teachers as they participate in the extra-curricular activities.
This year’s program is available to students in grades eight, nine, and 10. Space is limited and governed by an application process.
Bus Schedules, Bell Times
As the system implements its new three-tier bus schedule, school bell times will change to accommodate its new bus routes.
The elementary school bell schedule has not been affected for the 2012-13 school year. Elementary schools will continue to start their school day at 7:55 a.m., and finish at 2:30 p.m.
High school bell times have been adjusted to start 20 minutes earlier for the 2012-13 school year, with school beginning at 8:10 a.m., and ending at 3:10 p.m. The middle school schedule also has been adjusted to start 20 minutes later for the 2012-13 school year. Middle schools will begin at 8:55 a.m., and release at 3:55 p.m.
To learn more about the aforementioned changes in the Henry County School System, visit www.henry.k12.ga.us.