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While summer won’t officially be over for another month, it practically ends for about 10,300 Bedford County students Monday.
Summer vacation is through—the 2011-2012 school year is set to begin.
“We’re just excited to have the students back,” stated Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch. “We’re very excited and enthused about another school year and all of the great things we have in store for the students in the year to come.”
And there will be changes.
Four schools—Staunton River Middle, Bedford Elementary, Bedford Primary and Big Island Elementary—have new principals and all of the students will face new start times for school. Elementary students will begin their day about 30 minutes before last year’s start time and middle and high school students will start their day 30 minutes later than last year. The staggering start times were implemented as a cost-saving measure for the school system, to the tune of about $400,000.
Start times vary at the schools and public relations coordinator Ryan Edwards encouraged parents to contact their students’ schools if they have questions about bus schedules. The move takes about 20 buses off of the roads this year.
“The division is saving quite a bit of money by doing this,” Edwards said. But he realizes the change will mean adjustments for some families.
“We’re hoping to get the school year started off next Monday in a very positive way,” Edwards stated. “We’re just looking forward to getting things under way.”
Some high school students will also get to experience the new blended learning program. Though its implementation will be minor—it was used by more than 100 students during the summer school program that just ended—the school division plans to move it forward as funds are available.
“We’ll be slowly filtering that in through BSTC, offering some classes,” Edwards stated.
Dr. Schuch said there’s nothing more exciting than seeing students showing up for the first day of classes, though he acknowledges some students, especially in the upper grades, might not be as enthusiastic.
He added that modifying the start times at the schools challenges both the school division and the community as families get used to it.
“We all agree that it was the right thing to do,” he said of the budget decision made by the school board. “It’s going to take some adjusting.”
That includes parents dealing with a variety of work and childcare schedules.
He encouraged parents and students to attend this Thursday’s open houses at all of the county schools. Besides teachers and school staff, a representative from the transportation department will be at each open house to answer questions, if needed. The open houses are from noon to 7 p.m.
Dr. Schuch said those provide a good opportunity for students and parents to meet with teachers and begin the transition to the new school year. He also said it’s a good chance for parents to sign up for volunteer efforts at the schools.
“We really hope that families will go,” he said.
At a recent school board meeting, several updates on the start of school were offered by Central Office staff. Those included:
Student Enrollment: Mark Blankenship said projected membership for 2011-12 is 10,261. The current enrollment is 10,375, which is the same as the 2010, September 30 membership. A membership update will be provided to board members each day during the first 10 days of school.
Human Resources: Tim Parker noted that 25 of the 28 employees who lost their jobs, were offered recalled employment. Eighteen will return and the other seven found other employment opportunities.
Maintenance: Dennis Overstreet spoke of relocating grade levels, computer labs, a boiler, the Bridge School from the Central Office to BSTC, and two mobiles. The maintenance staff disassembled and took 14 mobiles off line. They have also been busy painting, installing flooring, upgrading the HVAC at NLA, and many other projects necessary for the opening of school. The custodial staff was decreased by 8.75 positions in order to be more efficient.
Nutrition: Randy Hagler stated that there would be no change in vendors for nutrition supplies. Vacancies have been filled and access to cafeteria accounts has been upgraded. The most notable change for this school year is the upgrade of the nutrition software to Café Enterprise. Students and staff will be able to look at their cafeteria accounts from anywhere in the district by using a seven digit access code. Café Prepay will enable parents to make payments on-line and look at participation for kindergarten students.
Immunizations: Sara Staton reported that as of August 1, 56 PK students and 346 kindergarten students were still missing immunizations. There were currently 465 rising sixth grade students with no documentation for Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis combined) vaccine, which is much better than last year. Staton said that the Code of Virginia makes no allowances for immunizations, and last year, all children were fully immunized and able to start to school. The Health Department provided extended clinic hours to aid in the immunization requirements.