Students and teachers start back to school count down

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By Jennifer Caldwell

Area temperatures are still screaming summer but the activity at local school buildings indicates that fall is on its way.

With the start of school just a week away Campbell County students will soon be trading their beach towels for backpacks as they prepare to hit the books.

And while some may be groaning at the thought of getting back to the grind, Dr. Michael Martin, director of Campbell County schools, says he is looking forward to the challenges the new year brings.

Armed with a five year plan that places a high level of emphasis on student achievement, Martin believes the system is poised to equal and even surpass the gains made during the 2008-09 school year.

As part of the system wide action plan, technology improvements for the classroom have taken the driver’s seat.

“We have invested a lot of time, money and energy into technology and software for the classroom,” Martin explained.

The result of this push is that each classroom in grades three through eight across the county will now be equipped with four student computers and one teacher computer.  

According to Martin, the addition of these computers will not only eliminate the need for students to travel to a computer lab for instruction, but it will also allow teachers easy access to the new Classworks software that will be implemented this year.

Martin described Classworks as having the ability to create a diagnostic file on each child in the system.

“The information compiled by the software will create an individualized plan for students based on their strengths and weaknesses,” Martin said of the program aimed specifically at increasing student proficiency.

The school director said by implementing a quarterly benchmark assessment teaching staff will also be able to take a proactive approach in addressing shortfalls in student performance which will be essential in keeping up with the more rigorous testing standards that have been set forth by the state this year.

“The state is shifting from getting students proficient to getting students to master skills.  But it doesn’t matter if they have stepped up the standards because our staff and students are ready for the task,” Martin projected.

As part of the push toward academic excellence the county’s high school population can expect significant changes.

One of the most profound of those changes will be the transition from block scheduling to a seven period day.

Although this change has been met with some skepticism, Campbell County High School Principal Robbie Heatherly said he is confident in the new scheduling system.

“It (seven period day) will give teachers opportunities to use new and innovative instructional techniques,” Heatherly said.

In addition, the principal said period scheduling will provide students with increased learning opportunities.

“The numbers show that a seven period day will provide more instruction time per student per subject for the year,” Heatherly explained pointing out that additional instruction time will translate into greater student achievement.

Because of the move away from block scheduling Heatherly said attending Cougar Day is a necessity for CCHS students.  This Thursday and Friday (see ad and news notes for specific times) students will have the opportunity to view their schedules and make the appropriate revisions so that they will be ready opening day next Thursday.

“We’re in a much better place than we were last year and the teachers are ready to help students achieve,” Heatherly said of his outlook for the year.

While most county schools are gearing up for next week’s start date the Campbell County Christian Academy kicked off the 2009-10 school year today.

After attending Tuesday evening’s orientation, students and faculty at the school were ready to hit the ground running.

With a measured record of student achievement, Headmaster Donnie Poston said the future of the school continues to look bright.

“I feel very positive about the prospect of this year,” Poston said from his office on orientation night.

With more than 120 students enrolled, Poston said he is looking forward to watching their development.

“I love to watch these children learn and grow,” Poston said of his anticipation of this year will bring.