“All of our employees have been hard at work preparing for the first day of classes and are excited to welcome more than 39,000 returning and new students to school on Monday,” Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo said. “I’m most proud that these students are returning for a fully restored 180 days of school thanks to the extraordinary budgeting work by our office of financial management and ad hoc budget committee and support of the majority of the School Board.”
Some county middle school students will begin classes at a new facility, and a number of new programs and learning opportunities will greet students returning to the 42 schools in the Cherokee County School District.
Cherokee County’s schools gained recognition for having the highest SAT scores in the state of Georgia last year, and many schools in the county were recognized for the outstanding job they are doing.
“This school year brings with it the roll-out of new programs and innovations that our students, parents and staff have come to expect due to our national reputation for educational excellence,” said Barbara Jacoby, the school system’s director of Public Information, Communications and Partnerships. “For just a sampling … we’re expanding our STEM offerings at the elementary-, middle- and high- school levels; using greater levels of technology and in more engaging ways, like flipped classrooms; and offering new courses such as Mandarin Chinese, robotics and engineering and jewelry industry-certification in partnership with the Diamond Council of America. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a CCSD student or educator.”
But despite all the accolades, classroom sizes continue to grow, with fewer teachers for more students, the number of paraprofessionals continues to shrink and many students will find themselves in portable classrooms, or trailers, when they return.
While the use of portable units is down, 23 campuses in Cherokee County will have portables on their grounds, data provided by the school system shows.
“These portables total 130 units, which include 260 classrooms; and 184 of those classrooms are planned for use in the 2013-14 school year,” Jacoby said.
This summer, 35 portable units were eliminated as a result of new construction; further eliminations have not yet been scheduled, but will be considered based on actual and projected enrollment updates, she said.
In 2008, Cherokee County schools employed 429 paraprofessionals to assist teachers in classrooms, many in kindergarten and special education classes. This year, only 324 parapros will be assisting teachers in the Cherokee school system.
The reduction in paraprofessional staffing for the 2013-14 school year was made through attrition and transfers, Jacoby said.
“For every two kindergarten classes, there is one paraprofessional; special education students receive paraprofessional services that vary based on their Individual Education Plan,” Jacoby said.
Class sizes have increased since 2009, and this year kindergarten classes will have as many as 26 students, up from a maximum of 22 five years ago. The average kindergarten class in Cherokee County will have 25 students, up from 16 in 2009.
Class sizes for grades four to eight will be a maximum of 35 students, up from 30 in 2009, and high school classes will cram a maximum of 39 students into the classroom, up from a maximum of 32 five years ago.