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It's back to school time in Gaston County!

Back to School - Gaston County Schools

Immediate Release

August 20, 2019
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 26
New school choice Academy programs are 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 26, more than 31,000 students (pre-kindergarten through high school) will walk through the schoolhouse doors in neighborhoods across Gaston County to start the 2019-2020 academic year.

The 31,000 figure includes more than 2,100 seniors in the Class of 2020, who are already looking ahead to life beyond graduation, and nearly 2,000 kindergarteners, who are beginning their K-12 education journey.

Leading up to the first day, schools are conducting orientation/open house programs for students and parents, employees are involved in staff meetings and professional development, teachers are spending time preparing classrooms, lessons, and activities, and school personnel are taking care of last-minute details to ensure a smooth opening of school.

“Our schools are very excited about the 2019-2020 academic year, and we are pleased to welcome our students and teachers back to school,” stated Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker.  “Everyone associated with Gaston County Schools is anticipating another productive and successful year.”

This year, Gaston County Schools has approximately 1,900 classroom teachers at its 55 schools – more than 90 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 26.

▪ New principals at seven schools

Seven schools have principals who are new to the school for the 2019-2020 year:  Chad Carper, W.C. Friday Middle School; Todd Goff, Page Primary; Bill Kessler, Sadler Elementary; Dawn Lavinder, McAdenville Elementary; Tammy Mims, Chapel Grove Elementary; James Montgomery, Highland School of Technology; and Lucretia Rice, Warlick Academy.

▪ Introduction of new Academy programs

The number of school choice/magnet school programs is increasing from six to 19 with the introduction of new Academy programs in six areas:  Career, Collegiate Prep, Health Sciences, Leadership, Public Service, and Technology and Industrial Engineering.  The additional choice programs include the Career Academy at Hunter Huss High School, Southwest Middle School, and York Chester Middle School; the Collegiate Prep Academy at Forestview High School and the Gifted and Talented Academy (Collegiate Prep) at Cramerton Middle School; the Health Sciences Academy (in partnership with CaroMont Health) at East Gaston High School; the Leadership Academy at Costner Elementary, W.C. Friday Middle School, and North Gaston High School; the Public Service Academy at John Chavis Middle School and Cherryville High School; and the Technology and Industrial Engineering Academy at Bessemer City Middle School and Bessemer City High School.  The 13 new options are in addition to six existing school choice/magnet school programs:  Gaston County Virtual Academy, Gaston Early College High School, Hawks Nest STEAM Academy, Highland School of Technology, the Gifted and Talented Academy at Pleasant Ridge Elementary School, and the STEAM Academy at Stanley Middle School.  School choice/magnet school applications for the 2020-2021 academic year will be accepted in February.

▪ Work on new middle school and other projects continues

Significant progress has been made on the construction of the new Belmont Middle School since the groundbreaking ceremony in March.  The modern campus on South Point Road is taking shape and expected to be ready for the 2021-2022 academic year.  The project is funded by school bonds that voters approved in May 2018.  In addition to the new Belmont Middle School, school bond funds are being used for renovation and repair projects at 12 schools:  H.H. Beam Elementary, Bessemer City Primary, Carr Elementary, John Chavis Middle School, Grier Middle School, Holbrook Middle School, New Hope Elementary, North Gaston High School, Pinewood Elementary, South Point High School, Southwest Middle School, and Webb Street School.  More information about the school bond projects is available on the district website:  www.gaston.k12.nc.us/schoolbonds2018.  Additionally, improvements including gymnasium floors, media center renovations, fencing, roofing, parking lot and driveway paving, painting, and life safety updates (cameras, intercoms, and doors/entry access) were made this summer at various schools.

▪ Strategic plan for 2019-2024 takes effect

A new strategic plan for Gaston County Schools is in effect for the next five years.  The plan, which provides the guiding principles for the school district, highlights four priority areas – College and Career Ready; Qualified Workforce; Innovation; and Healthy, Safe, and Responsible Schools.  The plan also outlines the district’s vision, mission, and goals.  The vision focuses on the overarching principle of “inspiring success and a lifetime of learning” in students and employees.     

▪  Continued focus on school safety

Safety remains a priority for Gaston County Schools.  In addition to having a comprehensive safety plan, every school has a full-time police resource officer, a buzz-in entrance system, an identity management (visitor check-in) system, and surveillance cameras to ensure safety.  School administrators spent time this summer reviewing emergency reunification plans and conducting safety walks, and a number of schools received life safety updates (cameras, intercoms, and doors/entry access) as well as new fencing.  Thanks to the district’s safety initiatives and continued partnership with local law enforcement agencies, Gaston County ranks again as the safest large school district in the state based on school crime data that is calculated annually by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

▪ An emphasis on CTE, technology, and professional development

Much time and energy have been put into enhancing our academic programs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  For example, students in our Career and Technical Education (CTE) program 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, “Students@Work” and “Educators in the Workplace” with the Gaston Regional Chamber, and Career and College Promise with Gaston College are helping students to make connections between school and “the real world.”  The district is continuing its efforts to provide up-to-date technology for students and teachers to use in their classrooms.  Technicians have spent time replacing outdated SMART Boards with large LED monitors, updating computer software to Windows 10, and upgrading servers and other equipment.  Further, professional development programs like the Teaching and Learning Conference on August 5-6 at Gaston College offer opportunities for teachers and other employees to learn best practices and effective strategies to ensure quality teaching and learning.

▪ 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 college prep camp for high school students and the “Summer Imaginarium Camp” that gave elementary and middle school students the opportunity to be involved in activities related to science, technology, math, art, and even sports.

▪ Program addresses bullying

For the third 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 are working on bullying prevention efforts and serve as a resource for students and parents.

▪ Test results coming in September

Test results for the 2018-2019 academic 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 2019.

▪ 13 new buses; motorists should use caution

Approximately 16,000 children rely on school bus transportation.  Gaston County operates 211 yellow school buses and 47 white activity buses – 13 new yellow buses have been added to the fleet this year to replace older buses.  Over the past three years, Gaston County has received 58 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.  Additionally, the school district is partnering with local law enforcement to promote the importance of traffic safety through an informational campaign on social media and other means of communication.  Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when approaching a school bus and to watch for children in the morning and afternoon hours when buses are on the road.

▪ 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 the CEP (Community Eligibility Provision) program sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.  Additionally, the “Breakfast after the Bell” program is available at 13 schools, including all high schools (Ashbrook, Bessemer City, Cherryville, Stuart W. Cramer, East Gaston, Forestview, Highland, Hunter Huss, North Gaston, and South Point), Belmont Middle School, Chapel Grove Elementary, and North Belmont Elementary.  The program provides another opportunity for students to eat breakfast, and it is ideal for students who are not able to eat before leaving home or arrive early enough to eat in the cafeteria before school.  This summer, approximately 100,000 breakfast and lunch meals were provided to children at more than 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, giving insight 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 information.  Additionally, the district is continuing its efforts to increase 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.