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Columbia County pupils head back to school Tuesday

Year of change in store for system

Posted: August 5, 2012 - 12:06am
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Evans Middle School sixth-grade teacher Grace Meyer meets student Taylor Stone and her mother, Tisha, and brother Scott during the school's open house.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Evans Middle School sixth-grade teacher Grace Meyer meets student Taylor Stone and her mother, Tisha, and brother Scott during the school's open house.

Thousands of Columbia County children will say goodbye to summer this week as they head back to school.

Tuesday also will mark the final chapter in Charles Nagle’s tenure as school superintendent, and begin the final year for two Columbia County schools.

Nagle announced in late July that he intends to retire after the 2012-13 school year. Evans Elementary and Columbia Middle schools will close in their current locations about the same time.

Nagle, who has spent 37 years in education, is beginning his sixth year at the helm of the school system. “This is going to be my last first day of school, so it’s bittersweet in that I’m going to be rewarded with retirement, but it’s also the end of an era for me in my career,” Nagle said.

With 24,000 pupils enrolled, Nagle said he’s focused on the upcoming year and what needs to get done, not his retirement.

“I don’t want to focus on anything in particular at this point other than having a great year and a smooth transition if and when another superintendent is recommended and appointed,” he said.

Nagle said he’s expecting a 180-day school calendar with no furloughs.

As far as preparing for the new school year, Nagle said everything is in place for pupils’ arrival.

Teachers, pupils and administration at Evans Elementary and Columbia Middle schools are gearing up for the final year in their current schools.

Work is under way to build a replacement school for Evans Elementary on Gibbs Road, near the current school’s location, and for Columbia Middle on William Few Parkway, next to Grovetown High School.

Both schools should be complete in time for the 2013-14 school year.

Evans Elementary Principal Naesha Parks said while there’s some apprehension about moving to the county’s first two-story elementary school, most involved are excited about relocating.

“The fact that they’re able to see the progress of the school almost daily just really adds to the excitement,” Parks said. “It’s almost like a new house being built, and they’re able to see it being built from ground up.”

At Columbia Middle, Principal Steven Cummings said many faculty members feel bittersweet about the looming move.

“They’re happy to be moving to a nice building, but the history that they’ve had in this building, of course, you will cherish that,” he said.

Cummings said they are determined to leave Columbia Middle’s more than 850 pupils with a lasting memory of the school.

“We’re going to really try to have it our best year here,” he said.

Also ready for the new school year is school system Transportation Director Dewayne Porter.

In June, all of the school’s 248 buses passed annual inspection by the Department of Public Safety. Bus drivers have been running their routes in advance.

School buses transport about 14,000 children daily.

The system mailed out nearly 20,000 postcards and employees were available at the county’s Back-to-School Festival and school open houses to answer questions, Porter said.

“We’re just as prepared as we always have been,” he said.

Columbia County public schools and Augusta Christian Schools start back Tuesday. Evans Christian Academy begins Wednesday, and Augusta Preparatory Day School starts Aug. 16.

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