I-SS begins new year early with increased enrollment, focus on student well-being
BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell-Statesville Schools began a new school year on Thursday with some 20,587 students, surpassing state projections by more than 350 students.
The official enrollment will not be recorded until 20 days into the school year.
“We will continue to monitor the count on a daily basis. It looks like we will get to add positions,” Superintendent Brady Johnson explained. “We’ll add several teaching and teacher-assistant positions.”
Earlier school start date
Although most students in surrounding counties are getting ready to head back to school in the next week or two, the first day of school came earlier than normal for I-SS students.
The Board of Education approved an earlier start date as part of an innovative school calendar for the 2019-2020 school year.
The new calendar, which aligns more closely with community college and universities, will help students who are taking college and high school courses. It will also allow high school students to take high-stakes exams before the winter break.
District officials have championed this calendar because it reduces the need for duplicate bus routes and eliminates the need for some teachers to work additional weeks.
New mental health, safety and security efforts
The number of stressed students in classrooms is increasing and it can often hinder the ability of teachers to do what they do best — teach.
To address this, the district is providing suicide prevention and mental health awareness training for all employees.
“We’ve never done this before, but we are doing a districtwide training on mental health awareness and the signs to recognize on the social and emotional needs of children,” Superintendent Brady Johnson explained.
Johnson also pointed out that the Board of Education and Iredell County commissioners made school security a top priority after several school shootings, including the Parkland, Fla. tragedy. The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office was tasked with developing a comprehensive plan in partnership with the school system.
After a failed referendum for school safety funding, county commissioners created a separate funding stream dedicated to increasing school safety and security. Money in that fund will allow the district to expand School Resource Officers to the elementary campuses, Johnson said.
“All of our elementary schools will have part-time SROs,” he said. “We’re very excited to have the enhanced security.”
Middle schools and high schools each have SROs.
Additional fencing and the purchase of specialized safety software is also part of the district’s aggressive school safety plan to ensure safety in schools.
The software enables surveillance of the school by law enforcement for potentially dangerous situations.
Johnson mentioned that the school board is looking at potentially adding mental health counselors or social workers this school year. However, until the state budget is finalized, the board is withholding the decision.