After a school year unlike any other in 2020, principals at schools throughout Dawson County and school system administrators are excited to start back to classes this fall with new programs, improvements to the school buildings and a determination to make this year a great one.
According to Dawson County High School Principal Michael Negley, staff at the high school can’t wait to have their students back in person for what they hope will be a fresh start to a much more standard school year.
“We are very excited to start back to school in what we hope is somewhat of a more traditional year than what we had last year,” Negley said. “And I think [the students] are excited to come back; we’re starting to get questions about parking permits and schedules, and when we start hearing from them we know that they’re gearing up for it.”
Negley said that this fall, students will come back to several new improvements to the building, including newly resurfaced tennis courts, new windscreens and a backstop on the softball field, and a new gym floor.
“We’re exciting for the kids to get to see those; we think that’ll be a fresh look as they come into the building and into the gym and around the campus,” Negley said. “Then we should break ground within the school year on our two new construction projects with the multipurpose facility and the new agri-science center so that’s exciting too.”
Dawson County Middle School will have several of its own building improvements for the students to come back to, according to DCMS Principal Kim White.
“We’re renovating this whole back half of our school; the back half of the middle school has always physically and structurally been there but it’s been unfinished, so we’re now finishing it,” White said. “Band and chorus are getting new classrooms and we’re just gonna kind of move a good bit of our elective or our connection classes down into that new wing so it’ll give the kids more opportunities there.”
White, who will begin her first year as principal at the middle school this fall, said that one of the biggest changes she and her staff will be implementing this year is restructuring student advisement and its goals.
“We’re gonna kind of change up the way that we have used our advisement period this year, so I am focusing three days a week on engaging students’ passions, increasing critical thinking and reinforcing the love of reading,” she said. “That’s gonna be the focus of our advisement classes for the year.”
Brody Hughes, principal of Dawson County Junior High School, said that last year he and DCJHS administrators implemented Read 180, a program designed to help their students to improve their reading. This year, he said they’ll be expanding that to include Math 180, which is designed to help students improve their math.
“Last year Read 180 was successful, so this year we’re adding Math 180 to that program to help build some great foundations in math to students that need some extra support,” Hughes said.
In addition to the new math program, Hughes said that the junior high school will expand its American Sign Language classes and upgrade its technology with a new intercom, new sound system and new technology lab classroom. The junior high school is also working towards implementing a virtual reality lab to enhance the students’ classroom experience, he said.
“Research says that building context for students is important in reading especially,” Hughes said. “So they’re not just reading about a subject like the pyramids or Mount Rushmore, but it’s a way for them to experience that in virtual reality and build some context for that in their minds.”
Hughes said that he and his staff are excited to see the students in person when the fall semester starts back.
“I think we’re sitting in a pretty good spot, things are looking good, staff is all set and we’re ready to go,” Hughes said. “So we’re just very excited about the new school year.”
Page Arnette, principal at Robinson Elementary School, said that she’s seen several of her students out in the community and they are just as excited to start back to a new school year in person as school officials.
“They’re already buying their school supplies and getting geared back up so I think everybody is looking forward to it,” Arnette said. "We’re just excited to see our kids; everybody has had a full summer and it’s flown by but we can’t wait to have our Tigers back in the building.”
Arnette said that this year, Robinson will add a second pre-k class, building on the program the school began last year.
“We serve a lot of our own students that are zoned for Robinson, so we love having them in pre-k and getting them in the building before kindergarten,” Arnette said.
In addition to getting students back into the school buildings across the county and returning to a sense of normalcy, Kilough Elementary School Principal Teresa Conowal said that she’s excited to bring parents and volunteers back into the school more regularly this year.
“We have missed them, and their involvement in our school brings joy and connection for our shared purpose,” Conowal said.
With a fresh start to a new school year, Conowal said that Kilough administrators will be focusing on a theme of gratitude throughout the year.
“This year, our theme at KES will be gratitude; focusing on this theme with staff and students will help us all pay attention and build appreciation for even the smallest of things,” she said. “Reflecting upon how to be grateful every day builds the bank of gratitude and creates intrinsic happiness. The excitement of a new year is simply contagious.”