Activity is mounting to fever pitch in our district with the first day of school quickly approaching. Just this past week, we welcomed 80 new teachers and eight new classified staff to our district at our annual new employee induction. There is nothing quite like the energy of a room filled with anxious, excited new teachers and staff ready to embark on a new career journey.
The rest of our teachers will return on Thursday to kick off the new school year with our annual Employee Convocation. This year our guest speaker will be Shay Eskew. Eskew was severely burned at the age of 8 and was told he would never play sports again. Today, he is a nationally-recognized triathlete and ranked in the top 1% of Ironman worldwide. We expect that his amazing story of survival and perseverance will inspire our incredible teachers and staff.
To help students start this year off right, all of our elementary schools will hold orientation on Tuesday, Aug. 6, so that parents and students can visit their classroom and meet their teacher. The orientations will take place at Blue Ridge from 2 to 5 p.m., City Park from 1 to 3 p.m., Brookwood from 3 to 5 p.m., Park Creek from 1 to 4 p.m., Roan from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and Westwood from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
At Dalton Middle School, orientation for incoming sixth-grade students and new seventh- and eighth-grade students will be on Tuesday, Aug. 6, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. The move to the much larger middle school from the smaller elementary schools is a big transition for students. They must adjust to having a different teacher for each subject, navigating the changing of classes, and learning the combination to a locker. Our staff works very hard to help students acclimate to these big changes.
High schools will have orientations on Tuesday, Aug. 6. Dalton High School’s orientation will take place from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and is for freshmen students only. Morris Innovative High School’s orientation will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. and all students are welcome to attend. The transition to high school can also be challenging for students. For the first time, they are earning credits for the completion of classes that count toward graduation.
There are a few exciting changes coming to our district this year. One of our most exciting initiatives for the 2019-20 school year is the opening of the Academy of Fine Arts at Dalton High School. Our students already benefit from world-class fine arts opportunities, but the addition of the Academy model will take the programming to the next level. With a cohort of 80 students entering ninth grade this year, the Academy will provide these students with opportunities for master classes, guest speakers, targeted college trips and community service experiences in the arts.
At Brookwood, the German language immersion program is continuing to expand. Last year, the program was offered to students in kindergarten through second grade, and this year we are adding the third grade. Parents of children entering the program can expect their child to be fully bilingual in German by fifth grade. The Spanish dual language program at Westwood is also expanding this year to include both prekindergarten and kindergarten students. The Spanish dual language program at Park Creek will add another class of prekindergarten students this year.
The first day of school is on Wednesday, Aug. 7! Please drive with caution that morning and watch out for students who will be waiting for buses. Also, please remember that the law requires all vehicles to stop when a school bus stops for students. We are anticipating a great year and hope you will join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see some of the first day excitement.
Tim Scott is superintendent of Dalton Public Schools.