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Superintendent gives update on Dawson County schools
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"How are your schools?"

It's the singular question heard time and again whether people are moving across the street or across the state.

It's the question that Superintendent of Dawson County Schools answered during the monthly membership luncheon of the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce last week.

He covered everything from the community and schools and budgeting at the school level to student achievement in Dawson County.

"We want to be an exemplary school district. I don't want that to be lip service. That is our goal every day," Gibbs said.

Dawson County schools are a public charter school system with 3,368 students currently enrolled and the focus of the charter is technology, leadership and literacy, according to Gibbs.

The system's charter contract was renewed for another 10 years back in March.

The charter allows the system greater flexibility including awarding grants to teachers at individual schools, implementing programs like Camp Invention and partnering with postsecondary institutions.

Gibbs discussed the One:One initiative which began in grades six, seven and eight last week.

"This week we are putting iPads in the hands of every child in sixth, seventh and eighth grades," he said. "Next year we will go K-5 and the following year we will go 9-12."

Aside from the One:One initiative, the board approved the alignment of resources among schools.

This past year saw the implementation of consolidated math resources while the focus will be on English Language Arts for the upcoming year.

Beyond the alignment of resources, the realignment of grades 6-12 was also a critical decision that went into effect with the new school year.

Realigning the grades was an 18-month decision making process, according to Gibbs.

He cited having two small middle schools without enough staff to offer new and exciting things.

"Staff issues in a very small school. It is difficult to offer innovative, creative, new exciting things when you don't have enough staff to do it," Gibbs said.

When Gibbs began with Dawson County Schools in 2014, he asked how many eighth graders were taking high school level courses and found that the answer was none.

With the realignment, that has changed. Ultimately, the realignment will allow for a greater number of students to graduate and get a head start on options like dual enrollment.

Gibbs said the system is also working on partnerships with schools and professors to bring college level classes to the high school campus.

"One of the biggest obstacles for our children to take college courses in high school is transportation," he said.

Though growth in the area was only 15 percent of the reason the board chose to proceed with the realignment, it means the system now has room for up to 2,000 more students.

No other system in the state has that flexibility, according to Gibbs.

With the expected 600 homes coming in the next several years, the schools are already positioned to handle the growth without any more building.

As growth continues and changes come, Gibbs encouraged people to keep up with the school system through things like Twitter and Remind.

To sign up for updates via Remind, text @dc-schools to 81010. Dawson County Schools can also be found on Twitter: @DawsonSchools.