Classes start today for Columbia County's 19,600 pupils, including 445 Lewiston Lions who will march into the county's newest elementary school.
Though new-pupil registration has been brisk, school officials say it's too soon to tell if more classrooms will be needed.
"We use kindergarten as a guide and it looks like it's where it should be," Superintendent Tommy Price said. "New registrations have been coming in steadily, but we don't know who has left."
The pupil population is expected to swell by 250 this year. Despite the addition of 34 new classrooms at Lewiston Elementary School, the school system still will use about 100 portable classrooms, mostly at Evans Middle School, which will see more pupils this year because of a rezoning of the Martinez Elementary district. Lewiston is the first elementary school built since Euchee Creek and Greenbrier elementary schools opened in 1996.
At the high schools, the major change this year is that class schedules were mailed before the start of school.
William Wesley Allen, 4, watches Buster the remote-controlled safety bus at Columbia Countys Back to School Festival at Evans High School.
Photo by Trevor Frey
"I was talking to counselors at the Back to School Festival and they were pleased that they were not getting as many requests for changes," Price said.
Curriculum changes this year include the addition of eighth-grade Spanish, the second leg in a seventh- and eighth-grade middle-school foreign language package that allows pupils to earn a foreign-language credit for successfully completing both.
Health occupations, a certified program of study, is offered this year at Lakeside High School. In the past, only Greenbrier and Evans high offered the courses.
Co-sponsored by University Health Care System, the Columbia County school system and The Columbia County News-Times, the Back to School Festival on Saturday at Evans High School offered information for elementary- and middle-school pupils and their parents to help them prepare for the new school year.
The transportation department rolled out Buster, a 4-foot miniature bus that was purchased this year to teach bus safety. Buster was just one of the 50 attractions at the fourth annual festival.
Rita McDonald, president of the Columbia County School Food Service Association, had the school lunch menu for the first month of school at her booth, and a display showing the food pyramid and nutritional information for parents.
The transportation department had bus route information and the Columbia County Sheriff's office was fingerprinting children and offering safety information. Some of the other community organizations at the festival included the Family Y, Girl Scouts and the Columbia County Recreation Department. University had 13 health-related booths displayed.
Amy Ekechukwu recently moved to Columbia County from Richmond County, so she came to the festival to get more information about the school system.
"There's a lot of stuff here for the kids to do," said Ekechukwu, who has six children.
But the part they liked most, she admitted, was "the candy they are giving away."
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