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What's ahead for the new school year in Gaston County

Immediate Release
August 24, 2018
Contact:  Todd Hagans
Chief Communications Officer
Office: (704) 866-6118
Cell: (704) 718-0279
E-mail: tthagans@gaston.k12.nc.us
 
Gaston County Schools anticipates the first day of school on August 27
“Big 50 Anniversary” celebration is a highlight for the upcoming school year

Gastonia, N.C. – It is back-to-school time in Gaston County!  When the morning bell rings on Monday, August 27, approximately 32,000 students (pre-kindergarten through high school) will walk through the schoolhouse doors in neighborhoods across Gaston County to start the 2018-2019 academic year.


The 32,000 figure includes more than 2,100 seniors in the Class of 2019, who are already looking ahead to life beyond graduation, and more than 2,000 kindergarteners, who are beginning their K-12 education journey.

A teacher at Hawks Nest STEAM Academy prepares for classroom for the 2018-2019 school year. Leading up to the first day, schools conducted orientation/open house programs for students and parents, employees were involved in staff meetings and professional development, teachers spent time preparing classrooms, lessons, and activities, and school personnel took care of last-minute details to ensure a smooth opening of school.

“Our schools are ready and excited about the new year, and we are so pleased to welcome our students back to school on Monday, August 27,” said Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.  “Everyone in the Gaston County Schools family is anticipating another productive and successful year that will give us plenty of reasons to celebrate the accomplishments of our schools, our students, and our teachers.”

This year, Gaston County Schools has more than 1,900 classroom teachers – approximately 150 of them are first-year teachers.  The new teachers are participating in the district’s Teacher Induction Program for Success (TIPS), which is designed to ensure educators thrive in their new career.

Back-to-school information about registration, health requirements, report cards, orientation and open house programs, parent conferences, athletics, inclement weather procedures, and more is available on the school district website, www.gaston.k12.nc.us

Below is some additional information for parents and the community as students in Gaston County Schools head back to class on Monday, August 27.

▪ New principals at 16 schools
Sixteen schools have principals that are new to the school for the 2018-2019 year:  H.H. Beam Elementary – Darice Irby; W.B. Beam Intermediate – Todd Dellinger; Bessemer City High – Sheila Wyont; Bessemer City Middle – Jessica Mellon; Bessemer City Primary – April Conley; Brookside Elementary – Chad Hovis; Cramerton Middle – Jessica Steiner; Gaston Early College High – Josh Allen; Grier Middle – Mitchell Allen; Holbrook Middle – Audrey Hovis; Hunter Huss High – Bryan Denton; Pinewood Elementary – Tyler West; Sherwood Elementary – Kristie Gornto; Tryon Elementary – Meghan LeFevers; Warlick Academy – Judy Moore; and Woodhill Elementary – Loretta Reed. 

▪ 50th anniversary celebration
This school year, Gaston County Schools is celebrating its “Big 50 Anniversary” with a number of special events and activities to mark the occasion.  Gaston County Schools was formed in 1968 with the consolidation of the county schools with the Gastonia city schools and the Cherryville city schools.  The celebratory events include a history exhibit, parade, birthday party, school reunions/open houses, employee talent show, history highlights on social media, special programming on Spectrum Cable Channel 21 (the school district’s education access channel), and much more.  The district kicked off its 50th anniversary celebration on Wednesday during the annual Back-To-School Convocation for teachers and employees. 


▪ The emphasis is on academics, technology
Like every other year, the emphasis is on academics and student achievement.  Much time and energy have been put into enhancing our academic programs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, which is yielding positive results.  Through Career and Technical Education, students are learning how to be prepared for life after graduation, whether it’s going to college or into the workforce.  Programs such as our Career Signing Day, Career and College Promise with Gaston College, and “Students@Work” and “Educators in the Workplace” with the Gaston Regional Chamber are helping students to make connections between school and “the real world.”  To further enhance academics, the district will continue its efforts to provide up-to-date technology for students and teachers to use in their classrooms with the goal of achieving a 1:1 student-to-device ratio.  The current student-to-device ratio is 1:1.2.

▪ Test results coming in September
Test results for the 2017-2018 year will be released on September 5.  The results will give the public a look at how well our students did on the end-of-grade and end-of-course state tests that were administered in May and June.  The state also will release information about the graduation rate for the Class of 2018.


▪ Students spent time learning over the summer
Several enrichment programs kept the focus on learning over the summer.  Some 60 rising sophomores participated in the Commissioners’ School of Excellence, a two-week residential program at Belmont Abbey College that teaches about being a leader at school and in the community.  The “Camp Achieve” reading program for grades 1-3 provided individual and small-group instruction to improve reading and comprehension skills.  Other summer camps included the “Summer Imaginarium Camp” that gave middle school students an opportunity to be involved in activities related to science, technology, math, art, and even sports and the college prep camp for high school students.

▪ New STEAM academy
The new Stanley Middle School, which opened in March, is home to the district’s newest school choice/magnet program.  The STEAM Academy at Stanley Middle School is for students in grades 6-8 and provides a curriculum that emphasizes science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.  With the STEAM Academy at Stanley Middle, the district now has six school choice/magnet programs.  The others are Highland School of Technology, Gaston Early College High School, Hawks Nest STEAM Academy, Gifted and Talented Academy at Pleasant Ridge Elementary, and Gaston County Virtual Academy.  The district is developing additional academy programs to provide more school choice options for students and parents.  The new academy programs will be in place for the 2019-2020 school year. 

▪ Continued focus on school safety
Safety remains a priority for Gaston County Schools.  This year, all schools will have a full-time police resource officer, thanks to additional funding from the county to expand the school resource officer program.  Previously, each high school and middle school had a full-time resource officer and each elementary school had a part-time officer.  Additional safety initiatives already in place include a buzz-in entrance system and identity management (visitor check-in) system in use at each school, updated camera and surveillance equipment, comprehensive school safety plans, and an on-going partnership with local law enforcement agencies.  It is important to note that Gaston County continues to rank as one of the safest large school districts in the state based on school crime data, which is calculated annually by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

▪ Program addresses bullying
For the second consecutive year, “STAND UP Gaston” will serve as the district’s bullying prevention and character education program.  The program includes guest speakers, who share information with students about bullying, making good decisions, and showing kindness and compassion toward others.  Additionally, school counselors and other student support personnel will work on bullying prevention efforts and serve as a resource for students and parents.

▪ 29 new buses; motorists should use caution
Approximately 16,000 children rely on school bus transportation.  Gaston County operates 210 yellow school buses and 47 white activity buses – 29 new yellow buses have been added to the fleet to replace older buses.  Over the past two years, Gaston County has received 45 new yellow buses from the state.  All buses were inspected over the summer.  They are equipped with security cameras and a GPS (Global Positioning System) to ensure student and driver safety.  Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when approaching a school bus and to watch for children in the early morning and afternoon hours when school buses are on the road.

▪ All schools cleaned, repairs made
School buildings were cleaned thoroughly over the summer and received various upgrades.  Projects included gymnasium floors; plumbing; media center renovations; fencing; parking lot repairs (asphalt and lighting); water/sewer and restroom improvements; painting; flooring (tile/carpet); and life safety updates.

▪ Meal prices unchanged, free meal program continues
Meal prices remain the same as last year.  The student lunch price is $2.70 for elementary schools and $2.80 for middle and high schools.  The adult lunch price is $3.75.  Breakfast meals cost $1.20 for students and $1.50 for adults.  Again this year, breakfast and lunch meals are being provided free-of-charge to all students at 19 schools:  H.H. Beam Elementary, Bessemer City Central Elementary, Bessemer City Middle, Bessemer City Primary, Brookside Elementary, Carr Elementary, Chapel Grove Elementary, Gardner Park Elementary, Grier Middle, Lingerfeldt Elementary, North Belmont Elementary, Pleasant Ridge Elementary, Sadler Elementary, Southwest Middle, Springfield Elementary, Tryon Elementary, Warlick Academy, Woodhill Elementary, and York Chester Middle.  The free meals are made possible through a program sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.  This summer, more than 100,000 breakfast and lunch meals were provided to approximately 2,500 children at some 90 sites across the county.  The annual summer feeding program ensures that children have nutritious meals even when they are away from the classroom.


▪ More school partnerships and mentors
Again this year, the school district is seeking caring adults to serve as school mentors.  Mentors spend up to one hour per week at the school with a student, talking and offering encouragement, helping with homework, offering advice about college and career plans, and providing positive support.  Mentors complete a background check and one-hour training session, which are held at various times throughout the school year.  Anyone interested in joining the mentoring program should call (704) 866-6329 for more information.  Additionally, efforts are under way to increase the number of school partnerships with businesses, civic groups, and community organizations.

▪ Stay connected with Gaston County Schools
Students, parents, employees, and the community are encouraged to stay connected with Gaston County Schools by visiting the district website (www.gaston.k12.nc.us), each school website, “liking” us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, watching us on Spectrum Cable Channel 21 and YouTube, and downloading our free mobile app from the Google Play or Apple iTunes online stores.  Parents are reminded to contact their child’s teacher or the school principal when they have a question, concern, or suggestion.