FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL IS HERE: Andalusia teachers, faculties ready to welcome students for new school year

Published 9:15 am Saturday, August 6, 2022

The Andalusia City School System will swing the doors open for the first day of school on Monday and Superintendent Dr. Daniel Shakespeare said the faculty and staff are eager to get the school year off to a great start.

The school system has worked over the summer to prepare classrooms and hiring teachers. One of the things teachers and faculty are looking forward to the most is, hopefully, a full return to normalcy after several years of working around the pandemic.

“Hopefully we won’t have to deal with a lot of the COVID protocols. That will be a blessing just opening up without worrying about those issues as well as students and teachers being out due to COVID,” Shakespeare said.

In facility preparation, 18 classrooms at Andalusia Elementary School have been changed from carpet flooring to tile. The board recently approved the placement of new digital signage at the entrances to AES, a project coordinated by the Parent-Teacher Association.

As is normal with any summer break, the superintendent and members of the board have been busy this summer filling teacher vacancies.

“All of our slots are filled. The teacher shortage is real and it affects us just like it does everyone else in the state. But, we have been able to fill some of those positions with teachers who are on emergency certificate,” he said.

Those teachers on emergency certificate means they have passed the proper tests, allowing them to teach. Some of those who are on emergency certificate are working toward their full certification.

Whether new to the system or veterans with ACCS, all teachers have been busy over the summer preparing for the upcoming school year.

“We’ve had teachers working through professional development opportunities to work on pacing guides for math and English,” Shakespeare said.

There will be no major rule changes for the school system, although Shakespeare said a new set of consequences was adopted to deal with cell phone usage at Andalusia High and Junior High schools.

“We require that students keep their cell phones in their lockers during school. It is an ongoing battle,” he said.

If a student is found to be in violation of the schools’ phone policy, the phone will be taken away and can be picked up from the office at the end of the school day. On the second offense, a parent will have to come to the school to pick up the phone. On the third violation, a parent conference will be held.

Entering the school year, Shakespeare said the ultimate goal is to continue working toward student achievement growth.

“We are dedicated to creating a learning environment where teachers can teach and students can learn. Our goal is to elevate our schools to where we are one of the top systems in the state. That can be achieved through our delivery of instruction and being efficient in following school protocols,” Shakespeare said.

For students who need additional instructional assistance, all three of the schools in the system will provide intervention for students who are graded at deficient levels. The high school and junior high school also have “Saturday School” for students who want additional help.

Students will continue to take advantage of new technologies as all classrooms now have Smart Boards with the latest and final additions being in career tech and special education classrooms.

ACCS also will continue its 1:1 device program, allowing each student to have their own device for class work.

The system has also reviewed safety measures as the new year approaches.  Shakespeare said teachers and faculty have done a good job with the safety rules already in place. Guests to any of the schools will need to be buzzed in at the main entrance and proceed directly to the main office to be checked in.

Students at AHS will again have access to co-op and dual enrollment programs. Last year, about 150 students took advantage of the system’s dual enrollment program with LBW Community College and another 85 participated in co-op, allowing them to work part-time jobs within the community.

The faculty and staff are eager to begin the new year and have high expectations for all students, the superintendent said.

“The first day of school is probably the most important of the year,” he said. “Kids come back to school with positive attitude; they’re excited to meet their teachers and see their friends. It is a great opportunity for teachers to lay out their expectations and routines for the rest of the year. The gains we make through the rest of the year can be directly tied to the first day of school.”