Gaston schools open with excitement, jobs and early calendar | WFAE 90.7

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Students return to classrooms in Gaston County on Wednesday, following a calendar that conflicts with state law but provides what school board members say is a more reasonable schedule.

State law requires districts to reopen no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26, but the Gaston, Cleveland and Rutherford school boards voted to opened on August 17 instead. This means that the first semester can be over before winter break, and high school students who take one semester do not have to return for final exams.

The law carries no penalties for violations, and Gaston Chief Communications Officer Todd Hagans said Tuesday that he doesn’t believe the state took any action after districts reported their calendars in June.

“I’m not aware of any repercussions or anything that has been reported,” he said.

Lowell Elementary School music teacher Paris Suttenfield prepares for the first day of classes on Wednesday.

Paris Suttenfield, a veteran Gaston County teacher, said she’s excited about the early start.

“I think it’s a good plan for the teachers and the kids to start the summer a little earlier. It’s so hot that you can go back to school and get busy,” she said as she prepared her classroom Tuesday.

The district invited reporters to Lowell Elementary to do interviews in front of the school. Principal Christine Kizer said she is excited to return to a process that is close to the days before the pandemic.

Students returned to one-on-one classes last year, but measures were still in place to avoid mixing large groups. For example, Kiser said students eat lunch in their classrooms.

Christine Kaiser Lowell Elem.jpeg
Lowell Elementary Principal Christine Kiser

This year, “most of our juniors, until third or fourth grade, they eat in the cafeteria. And our fifth graders choose to stay in their room because they like the social aspect of it.

Across the country, the USDA last year stopped paying extra money for all school meals to ensure children don’t go hungry during the pandemic.

This year, students must pay for lunch or their parents must submit paperwork to qualify for aid.

Kaiser says educators know that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away.

“We are working to continue the cleanup and the children can continue to wear masks if they wish,” she said.

The day before students returned, Gaston County had about 70 teacher vacancies out of more than 1,900 teachers. That’s a vacancy rate of about 4%, like what Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported last week.

That’s about double the normal level, Hagans said. There is also a shortage of about 60 cafeteria workers and 20 bus drivers in the district.

“You rely on substitute teachers, long-term substitutes. You rely on pensioners. And you rely on other school personnel to fill those positions — teacher positions, bus driver positions,” Hagans said.

Most districts in the region will reopen on August 29, and they all continue to compete to fill their employee rosters. Many offer hiring and retention bonuses. Gaston County has offered a scholarship program for teacher assistants to transition into teaching. Hagans says the district had planned for 40 aides, but has expanded to more than 50 due to interest.



Gaston schools open with excitement, jobs and early calendar | WFAE 90.7

Source link Gaston schools open with excitement, jobs and early calendar | WFAE 90.7