ELKINS - Area school systems have been working throughout the summer to get ready for a new school year. Local education leaders say they are excited to get the year underway and are ready for students to take their seats.
"We are very close to having everything ready," Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Terry George said. "Crews are out checking the buildings to make sure they are ready for the first day."
Randolph County students will return to the classroom on Thursday, but teachers have already hit the classrooms to be ready when students arrive.
"Teachers have been in the buildings getting them ready," George said. "We feel we are pretty well ready."
The earlier start to the school year will help ensure the school system meets the state-required 180 days of instruction, but it has caused some issues with the delivery of supplies. He said the school system is still waiting on some items to make it to the county.
"They all should be here before school starts," George said. "It is going to be an exciting year, we are going to get 180 days in this year. Our teachers have been planning and are ready for it."
George said a new supplement math program, Reasoning Minds, will be implemented in second and third grades. The new program, which is separate from the core math program, will help improve students' math proficiency.
"We plan to introduce the program in other grades in coming years," George said.
He noted teachers are also preparing to get students ready for a new statewide assessment this year. He said the Smarter Balanced Assessment will replace the WesTest 2 during the current school year.
"It is always exciting for the first couple of days," he said. "I am going to try to visit every school in the first couple days."
Students will also return to classrooms in Tucker County Thursday. Superintendent Dr. Eddie Campbell addressed the possibility of Harman-area students attending Tucker County schools while repairs are made to the Harman School.
"I don't anticipate getting more than 20 students from Harman," Campbell said. "Since the ceiling collapsed we have had dozens of calls to the board office, Davis Thomas and the high school.
"We have a bus stop within a mile of the Randolph County line, so any students who do transfer won't have to go far to catch a bus.
"Students will attend both Davis-Thomas (Elementary/Middle School) and the high school. At present we have room for more students in all grade levels with the exception of sixth grade at Davis-Thomas Elementary/Middle School - it is full," Campbell said.
Harman School - in Randolph County - was deemed unsafe after an entire plaster ceiling fell in one of the school's classrooms during the July 4 weekend, bringing down 2 tons of material. No one was present at the time in the school, which was built in the 1950s.
MSES Consultants estimate emergency repairs to make the school safe for students will cost approximately $175,000.
"Any student who transfers to the middle school can play sports immediately. as well as any student who is in 9th grade. (However) 10th, 11th and 12th graders would have to sit for 365 days.
"We are trying to accommodate those families looking for alternatives as much as possible," Campbell said. "We want those students to have a good school year and things like this unfortunate incident are out of their control. County lines should not get in the way of providing all children with the best opportunity to learn."
Campbell said Tucker schools will have several new features this school year.
"One of the things we are excited about is a shift in focus in our gifted program," he said. "We are going to have a single classroom at the high school where students of all grades will spend a day at TCHS."
He said every day of the week, two grades of gifted students will travel to the high school for the new project-based learning program. Tucker County Schools have been developing the new program for more than a year.
"We will get to work with these students more to enrich their education and use their talents," Campbell said. "We are really enthusiastic about moving forward."
He explained that students in the program will select the projects they want to work on. He said the program will be cross-curricular, with students crunching numbers, doing research and writing reports. He said over the course of the year the students will develop an in-depth project that covers a subject they are interested in.
"Gifted students can become bored in the regular classroom," he said. "The new course will be really in-depth. The students will be with another grade level and with students from another school."
Campbell said the county only has one gifted teacher and the new format will allow more time to be spent with the students.
"We think it goes hand in hand with Common Core," he said. "We think it relates very well."
He said crews are working to finalize everything at the schools now.
"We will be ready," he said. "The maintenance staff has worked all summer. We feel very confident with the start of school."
Campbell said Tucker Valley and Davis-Thomas elementary schools will both have new principals for the year. Melinda Moss will take the helm at Tucker Valley and Alicia Lambert will be the new principal at Davis-Thomas.
Barbour County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joe Super said officials are looking forward to the return of students in the county classrooms Wednesday.
"It is going to happen whether we are ready or not," he said. "We are as ready as we can be."
Super said staff is moving to get students ready for the new statewide assessment and to work with the new school calendar.
"They have a great indirect impact on our kids," he said. "The change in assessment will be a big change."
Super said with school getting ready to begin he wants motorists to slow down and be more careful when traveling.
"I want to encourage everyone to drive a little slower and be cautious of our buses," he said. "We are getting another year off and running and I am excited to see the kids back in our buildings. It is a new year with new opportunities."