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First day of school goes smoothly
first day 2
Wednesday was the first day of classes for the 2009-10 school year and also the first day for the new Effingham County Middle School - photo by Photo by Sandi Van Orden

The Effingham County Board of Education talked about the first day of school and its newest school at its meeting Wednesday.

“We had a good open house at Effingham County Middle School, and a good opening there this morning. Everything came together,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “As always, it seems like it’s right to the last minute.”

Shearouse told the board there were 377 new students enrolled. The school system has grown by 167 students from 2008’s first day of class. As of Wednesday, there were 10,770 students enrolled. That total does not include pre-kindergarten students.

He said the system is growing, but not as rapidly as in the past few years. The school system also had a decline in the number of new employees this year. There are 49 new employees this year, and in past years, there have been as many as 140 new employees.

Shearouse said the system has adjusted the policy on the use of substitutes in order to cut costs. The system has requested that schools cover for teachers who are out with staff if the teacher will only be out for one day but can use a substitute if the teacher is out for district-required staff development.

Substitutes can be called if the teacher will be out for multiple days, but in classes with paraprofessionals it is requested substitutes only be called if the teacher will be out for a long term absence. Special education classes should follow all legal requirements for staffing.

A paraprofessional substitute should only be called if the paraprofessional will be out for more than five days.

Shearouse said everyone seems excited about the new ECMS.

“I asked (Principal) Rob (Porterfield) if he had any concerns or complaints at open house,” Shearouse told board members. “He said, ‘none.’ It’s great that we can provide that kind of building for our students.”

He told the board the system has been working with Lavender and Associates, the contractor for the career academy, on ways to save money in the building of that facility. The site also has been cleared. That building is supposed to be completed by June 2010.

Shearouse said he recently visited the old ECMS building with Dr. Slade Helmly.

“At some point in the next week or two, we’re going to get out there and start looking at what direction we might want to go with that building,” he said. “Those front buildings were 1950s buildings, and when you have students in there and you really look at those buildings, you didn’t really think they were that old. Now that everyone’s moved out and you go into the classrooms, you see exactly how old that facility is.”

He said it will take some time to look at unloading and loading practices at ECMS.

Shearouse also told the board members that 18 of the 118 bus drivers for the system had perfect attendance last year. School system transportation coordinator Jimmy Helmly holds a drawing where a driver with perfect attendance gets to drive a new bus. The same driver has won the drawing the last two years.