Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

July 28, 2013

Back-to-school time

Lawrence kicks off new year Thursday

LOUISA — This is the time of year children in Lawrence County are wishing they lived somewhere else, someplace where summer vacation lasts longer.

For them, the agonizing countdown to the first day of school has entered the red zone, with day one being Thursday — less than a week away.

Lawrence County has typically started its school year earlier than other northeast Kentucky districts simply because school calendars are no match for Mother Nature, and the chances are good that sometime in December or January the weather will turn foul, snow and ice will clog the roads and schoolchildren will remain home for days at a time.

“It’s our roads and our terrain. We have a number of roads where the sun never shines,” Superintendent Mike Armstrong said.

Devoting the entire month of August to school packs in vital instructional days unbroken by stretches of down time during which students forget some of their lessons. Front-loading the school calendar helps alleviate the regression and retention problem, Armstrong said.

There is much to look forward to in Lawrence once the school year begins. One of them is that meals for students will be free this year. The district has qualified and elected to take the community eligibility option, which means even students who don’t fall under the usual free and reduced-price meal income guidelines can eat breakfast and lunch at school for no charge.

The per-student savings to a family whose child eats breakfast and lunch every school day would be $519 for the year, Armstrong said.

Two Lawrence schools have new principals, Blaine Elementary and Lawrence County High, and Blaine is getting new air conditioning units to replace ones damaged by storms.

 Renovations at the high school are almost complete and pavers are resurfacing the parking lot this week. Heating and air conditioning in the vocational education building will be upgraded in a second renovation phase.

Second wave

A second wave of school openings will commence next week, with Boyd County and Fairview starting Aug. 7, Greenup and Carter counties opening Aug. 8, Russell and Ashland independents greeting students Aug. 14 and Raceland starting its school year Aug. 15.

Carter County educators are particularly excited about the new school year because the district has two new elementaries, Tygart Creek and Carter City. Workers at both schools are winding up the odds and ends of construction and teachers already have moved into their classrooms and set them up for students, according to Superintendent Ronnie Dotson. “For all practical purposes we are ready to have school today,” he said.

Tygart Creek hosted an open house last week and Carter City will have a similar celebration at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

Gym floor replacement at East and West Carter high schools should be complete by the time students return, although replacement chair backs in the bleachers of both gyms won’t be installed until September.

Area high schools will have an additional challenge this fall, with most having elected to raise the dropout age to 18 and the rest now obligated to do so by 2017.

Carter County is among districts that will emphasize credit recovery programs for struggling students. Online and remedial education programs will be used to keep students from falling so far behind they can’t catch up, Dotson said.

Renovations and festivities

In Ashland, the board of education is poised to hire contractors for a sweeping renovation of Verity Middle School that will move the district’s sixth grade there from its elementaries in two years.

That decision is expected to happen at a special board meeting Tuesday.

Elementary teachers have been busy during the summer freshening their classrooms for the new year, said Oakview Principal Debbie Diamond. Her school in the past has opened the year with a bang, with teachers greeting students costumed as cowboys, spacemen and other fanciful characters.

This year’s opening day will have the theme “Diving Into a Great New Year,” Diamond said. Details remain under wraps.

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.

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