New school year begins August 11th with excitement in the air

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It’s a week later than most area schools, but Switzerland County students will return to school on Tuesday, August 11th.

And there’s several new aspects of the school corporation that will meet students and staff.

The staff will actually report on Monday, August 10th, a day before students, but for Superintendent of Schools Mike Jones is excited for the year to get underway.

The later starting date is a result of the school board’s decision to reduce both the fall break and the spring break to just one week; as opposed to the two weeks for each break that had been planned in the past few years.

At the center of much of the excitement is the introduction of a “One to One” program that will put new Chromebook computers into the hands of every student in grades 4-12; with the iPads being utilized in kindergarten through third grade.

“We are excited for the students to have access to the Chromebooks this year,” Jones said. “All students in grades 4-12 will have access to their own computer device, and we feel that’s really going to help our students excel in the classroom.”

Students and parents will be able to pick up their Chromebooks in the coming days. High school students can pick their computers on Saturday, August 8th; while middle school and elementary students will be able to pick their computers up on Monday, August 10th.

Along with that, the school corporation has also entered into an agreement with Ivy Tech.

“I think the deal we’re doing with Ivy Tech with the dual credits is going to be a big deal for our students,” Jones said.

The superintendent said the administrators and others are really excited about the new program, which will allow seniors in the first year to attend classes at the Ivy Tech campus in Madison – earning both high school and college credits as they do.

“I think that’s going to be a good opportunity for kids to get the college credits and to get them economically,” Jones said. “We’re looking at other ways, maybe, to provide more opportunities for students as we get into this, so I’m hoping it’s going to be a benefit that gives students a little bit of a taste of college classes while they’re still in high school.”

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But for some Switzerland County students, the first day of school is coming a week sooner.

“We are starting a week later than the Career Center in Versailles,” Jones said. “So we are going to be bussing those students to the Career Center starting this coming Monday. We’re going to be providing our bus, and we’re also going to have a bus that’s going to pick up those kids who can’t drive to the high school to meet the bus.”

Jones said if the difference in the two schools would have been a day or two, Switzerland County would have simply allowed its students to start later; but with it being a week, a decision had to be made.

“Once our schedule was set, and that was the direction that the board wanted to go, with it being five days, we had to accommodate those students,” Jones said.

He said for the coming week, the Career Center students will attend classes in the morning, but will go home in the afternoon.

“It will probably work out over the year, because the Career Center still takes the two week fall and spring break, so those kids won’t have morning classes during those weeks that we are in session but the Career Center isn’t,” Jones said. “Over the year, when you factor in that type of thing, it should balance it out for them.”

Another big change is something that will be ongoing throughout the school year; and that’s the expansion of Jefferson-Craig Elementary School, which will see 10 new classrooms as well as other new areas.

The construction will cause the relocation of the school’s playground; and the two classes of sixth graders will be housed in the middle school building this year.

“I talked with (Jeff-Craig Principal) Tony Spoores today,” Jones said. “I’ve had a couple of parents reach out to me concerned that maybe we should do some sort of an orientation for those sixth grade students; so I think Tony is going to work on that, and when the seventh grade has their orientation, I think he’s going to have the incoming sixth graders come in so he can introduce them, because I think there’s some apprehension there with the sixth graders being in the middle school for the year.”

That orientation meeting for Jeff-Craig sixth graders and their parents will be held two times: at 4 p.m. and again at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, August 10th. Students and parents are encouraged to attend one of those sessions.

Jones said that both classes will be housed in the same area of the middle school; which should make the transition a bit easier for the students.

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There will also be a new bus route bringing students to school. Jones said that a bus route will be added in the Florence/Markland area. Jones said that with the population in that area of the county growing and the number of students in that area expected to come to school, all of those students won’t fit unto two buses, so the decision was made to add a third route.

That growth in those areas is indicative of overall growth that the corporation has been experiencing in recent years; and is expected to continue that growth in the future.

“We’re hoping that continues,” Jones said. “We’ve lost a few students but we also have several new students coming in. We’re optimistic that we’re going to keep growing.”

On the athletic front, there will be some new coaches in some sports; and this is also the first year that the high school football team will play at the varsity level.

Overall, Jones is excited about all of the new features coming this year; including some new faces on the staff.

“We have a lot of new staff members, so I think it’s going to be an exciting year,” he said. “We have a new counselor at the middle school (Liz Conrad), and new teachers in most of our schools. It’s going to be a great year.

“We were talking recently about how many different opportunities our students have as opposed to when I was in school,” Jones continued. “When I was in school, it was high school and college, but we didn’t know much about different options. We just didn’t have as much information.”

And the superintendent should know.

A native of Switzerland County and a graduate of Switzerland County High School, Jones left for Georgetown College in Kentucky for four years; and then returned to teach here.

He’s taught, served as athletic director, principal, and is now the superintendent.

“I went to school here for 12 years, then was gone four,” he said. “This will be my 37th year; so 49 out of the last 53 years I’ve been a part of Switzerland County Schools. That’s a long time, isn’t it?”

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Orientation for incoming eighth grade students at Switzerland County Middle School will be held on Tuesday, August 4th, and will be held beginning at 6 p.m. in the middle school gym.

Orientation for incoming seventh grade students at Switzerland County Middle School will be held on Thursday, August 6th, and will be held beginning at 6 p.m. in the middle school gym.

Switzerland County Elementary School and Jefferson-Craig Elementary School will hold their Open Houses to begin the school year on Monday evening, August 10th, from 4-6 p.m.

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As for the new computers for students, the school will hold a ‘roll out’ for the new devices over two days.

On Saturday, August 8th, devices will be handed out for students in grades 7-12 only. This distribution will be held in the high school gym, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Parents will need to bring the following:

• A $25 payment for a technology fee.

• Vaccination records for seniors.

• For driving students: driver’s license; vehicle insurance; and vehicle registration.

• Updated address and bus route information.

On Monday, August 10th, devices will be handed out for students in grades 4-6 only. This distribution will be held in the Switzerland County Elementary gym and the Jefferson-Craig Elementary gym, from 4-6 p.m. Parents should go to the school that their child will be attending. Parents will need to bring the following:

• A $25 payment for a technology fee.

• Vaccination records for 6th graders.

• Updated address and bus route information.

Anyone needing more information should contact the school that their child attends.