Learning Gets a Jump Start with the Opening of the School Year - Southern Maryland Headline News

Learning Gets a Jump Start with the Opening of the School Year


LA PLATA, Md.—Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) opened for the 2013-14 school year Monday, Aug. 26, with first day jitters, excitement and messages of safety.

Superintendent Kimberly Hill joined Sheriff Rex Coffey at North Point High School Monday morning to remind students to drive safely. Along with sheriff’s officers, Hill and Coffey handed student drivers safety flyers and reminders to stow telephones before driving a car.

Police officers at the five other high schools also stopped student drivers to provide the flyer, which is part of a six-year-old “We Care” program, a safe driving initiative for teens by teens with guidance from the sheriff’s office and CCPS. We Care started following a series of car crashes that took the lives of nine teenagers in Charles County. The campaign continues to engage students in conversation about safe driving while promoting safety through a series of checkpoints in school parking lots and other activities. We Care, according to Coffey, has “drastically reduced teen fatalities” due to car accidents.

Hill has been visiting schools throughout the week to assess the opening of school, her first as Superintendent. “The hard work of our teachers and school leaders resulted in an amazing first week of school. Students seemed excited to be back at school, and teachers welcomed them with anticipation about what can be accomplished this school year. It was a great opening, and I’m very proud of all the work that went into it. Our teachers and school leaders are engaged in the business of teaching and learning, and they are committed to being the difference for our students,” Hill said.

Enrollment

Student enrollment is continuing a five-year trend of limited or declining student growth. On Wednesday, student enrollment was 25,157, which does not include the 860 prekindergarten students scheduled to start on Sept. 3. The projection for this year was 26,773; however, based on this year’s enrollment trend, school officials are estimating enrollment at 26,500. Last year’s official enrollment was 26,644 students. The stalled student growth of the past several years is in contrast to the triple-digit student population increases of the preceding two decades. Enrollment growth since the start of the 2006 school year has slowed to the smallest numbers since the early 1980s when the school system last saw decreases in student enrollment. That decline was followed by 20 years of high growth, with as many as 700 to 800 new students enrolling in some years.

New teacher hires

Human Resources is winding down the hiring process for the 2013-14 school year. Connie Armstead, executive director of human resources, reported Monday that all but seven teaching positions had been filled. Vacancies are being covered with long-term substitutes. Charles County welcomed 169 new teachers, including 34 special education, 60 elementary and 75 secondary teachers. Human resources specialists reported shortage areas in special education, world languages, technical education, and high school science and mathematics.

CCPS has dramatically increased the percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers. Teachers with Advanced or Standard Professional Certification in the subject area they were teaching taught more than 96 percent of classes in Charles County last year.

School buses on the road

Volunteers manned the school bus hotline, which handled and answered 1,232 calls between Thursday, Aug. 22 and Tuesday, Aug. 27. The number of calls this year, according to Richard Wesolowski, director of transportation, was less than previous years as parents adjust to and use the automated School Locator to check their child’s school bus route. School Locator can be found through a link on the school system’s webpage at http://www.ccboe.com.

Charles County's 276 school buses travel 34,000 miles daily, or 6.1 million miles a year. Most students ride a school bus at some time, and 21,000 students ride daily. In Charles County, 27 independent contractors provide the school bus services for Charles County Public Schools.

Prior to the first day of school, all buses are inspected and ready with drivers, according to Wesolowski. Inspections include under-the-hood mechanical checks as well as examination of the exterior and interior lighting, seats, floors and safety equipment. Additionally, drivers receive four hours of training.

Transition to new testing

Field testing of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), the next generation assessment system, is expected this school year. During the 2014 state testing window, some children will take the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) and others will take PARCC, which will replace MSA in the 2014-15 school year. According to information released by the Maryland State Department of Education, the PARCC field test is designed to help inform test development in preparation for the change and provide schools the opportunity to experience the administration of PARCC assessments.

Charles County Public Schools provides 26,700 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 35 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.

Source: Charles County Public Schools

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