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Richmond County students return to classes

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Richmond County students will encounter new faces, new buildings, new technology and a new superintendent in the new school year that starts Monday.

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LaShaka Wesley prepares for her first year at Cross Creek High School. Wesley, a graduate of Georgia Regents, is one of nearly 200 teachers hired in Richmond County in the past year.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
LaShaka Wesley prepares for her first year at Cross Creek High School. Wesley, a graduate of Georgia Regents, is one of nearly 200 teachers hired in Richmond County in the past year.

Many of the roughly 32,000 students will be learning with new teachers and staff as the Richmond County school system prepares for a projected influx of new students, mostly from the new Cyber Command being established at Fort Gor­don.

Departing Superintendent Frank Roberson said his staff has made 24 principal and assistant principal changes over the past year and is in the process of hiring more teachers.

To date, the system has hired 197 teachers over the past year.

“We’re bringing new faces to various schools,” said Ro­ber­son, whose contract wasn’t renewed and whose last day is Aug. 22. “We want to alleviate any stress our staff could feel as these new students enter our system. By expanding the staffs, we can make sure we have adequate amounts of help on hand.”

Roberson said almost all teachers will attend professional training sessions this year designed to help them grasp new state education standards.

Elementary school students will be attending schools with full wireless Internet capability. In order to extend the district’s “Bring Your Own Technology” policy and encourage student interest in science and engineering, the system plans to have all elementary schools fully wireless during the fall season. When the elementary schools go wireless, all Richmond County schools will be Wi-Fi capable.

“We have a huge focus on maintaining a focus on STEM-related education,” Roberson said. “This is something that encourages that, and I know that many students are excited to have the opportunity to participate in the BYOT policy. Integrating these skills in their education makes them better prepared for higher education and industry. These are important skills to impart to our students.”

Other changes aren’t quite so subtle.

A new wing at Cross Creek High School, built with $1.65 million of special purpose local option sales tax funds, will house the school’s award-winning Navy JROTC program, which has been cramped for space since its creation in 2006.

The wing will also be the home of the Cross Creek Academy of Military Science, a partial magnet program that adds leadership and community service elements to basic Richmond County curriculum and is open to all students in the school’s attendance zone.

The wing will have a dedicated firing range, drilling area, storage space, showers and classrooms.

Before completion of the new wing, students involved with the NJROTC’s many programs were forced to improvise. Drill team members practiced in the parking lot, and the air rifle team set up firing ranges in the cafeteria, sharing space with Cross Creek’s wrestling team.

“It will probably be done in about two weeks,” Cross Creek Principal Jason Moore said. “I’m excited about opportunities for kids, and the NJROTC program. It’ll improve the program itself, and increase participation. The kids are excited about being able to stay in a state-of-the-art new wing.”

The school board selected Angela Pringle as the lone finalist in its superintendent search last week. Board members will interview Pringle again before a final decision is made.

Pringle has been a region superintendent of the DeKalb County school district for the past four years and has worked for it since 2007, according to her application, managing a $7.7 million budget and overseeing 1,927 employees.

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