In the anticipation that seemed to take a lifetime, Jackson County Public Schools successfully reopened for the 2021-22 school year on Aug. 16 with a normal schedule.
Families, staff and the community have needed this return to normalcy as much as our students. A different normal, though, has our students and staff wearing masks as we are keenly aware of the COVID threat. Yet we persevere!
Reopening has not come without challenges. As new bus routes were established, new routines created, new staff and new classes of students were welcomed, we continually recognize how fortunate we are to be open. Some of our neighbors have not been as fortunate. We have made it four weeks with students and our positive COVID numbers are remarkably low as is evidenced in our daily dashboard located on the JCPS website.
Some changes have been made, even since the first day of school, that will assist in keeping our students and staff safe, healthy and in school.
These new practices include the requirement for all spectators to wear masks during indoor athletic events and limiting visitors inside our school buildings during the day to those who are coming for academic or educational support. With these new practices and our continued diligence to wear masks on buses and indoors, I feel confident we can continue to operate in a safe school environment.
As I shared last month, one factor that is helping to keep students and staff safe amid the COVID pandemic is wearing a mask. The guidance states: “students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student where both students were engaged in consistent and correct use of well-fitting face masks are not required to quarantine.
This exception does not apply to teachers, staff or other adults in the indoor classroom setting.” (retrieved from the Strong Schools NC Public Health Toolkit: https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/media/164/open)
Recently the N.C. Department of Public Instruction released End-of-Grade and End-of-Course test results for the 2020-21 school year. The data results are reflective of the pandemic we have endured over the last 18 months.
The results are not where I wish them to be. However, I am cognizant of the fact that we have much room for improvement but am incredibly proud of our 92.9 percent graduation rate. This is the highest graduation rate in our western region and the eighth highest in the state of North Carolina. This should be celebrated as we see our JCPS students achieve and excel.
I continue to focus on the academic progress that will be evident through the use of our new reading curriculum materials. The training and implementation has begun, and our students will be the benefactors. I am positive we will see good academic results and individual growth over time in our students.
I am very pleased with the focus on high-quality, rigorous instruction in Jackson County Public Schools. Great things are happening for our students, families and our community!
Thank you, Jackson County, for always supporting and showing pride in our school system.
As a reminder, there will be no school for students on Wednesday, Oct. 6, and Friday, Oct. 15; these are optional teacher workdays.
Dana Ayers is superintendent of Jackson County Public Schools.