Caitlin McKenna selects a strawberry from a table of fruit during the fifth-grade luau at Riverside Elementary.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
It was a year buoyed by achievement and marred by tragedy. But on Friday it was all about summertime as Columbia County's 19,663 students ended their 180-day school year.
Here's a month-by-month recap of some of the school year's notable events:
Classes begin for Columbia County's pupils, including 445 at Lewiston Elementary School, the county's newest school.
Valery Dinkins, a sixth-grade teacher at Harlem Middle School, is named Columbia County's Teacher of the Year.
Former Harlem High School student Alex Inglett, 17, is killed in a car accident Aug. 19 when the car he was a passenger in veers off the road, flips and rolls over on him.
Aleisha N. Lee, a junior at Harlem High, dies when a vehicle she was riding in swerves off Otis Way and lands upside down in a creek.
Nine-year-old Forrest Hutto dies Aug. 25 when his family's home in Martinez catches on fire. His parents, James and Michelle Hutto, and his twin brother, Robbie Hutto, are unharmed. Forrest's brother Andrew Nalley was burned but survived.
Columbia County's average 2003 SAT scores increase 12 points overall to 1,037 - well above the state and national average.
Maya Chatman picks out a cup cake decorated during the luau .
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Greenbrier High School sophomore Phillip Hill collapses at a junior varsity football game and is airlifted to Medical College of Georgia Hospital. Hill recovers, but school officials re-examine the placement of ambulances at games.
Under the direction of Brookwood Elementary School music teacher Johnny Carr, the school's 700 voices record a compact disc featuring 15 black spirituals. It is the sixth recording since the school opened in 1989 and released its first cassette single, The Brookwood Rap.
The Columbia County Board of Education commits $8,000 to provide ambulances for varsity football games. The board contracts with Gold Cross EMS to provide ambulance service for all 16 high school home games for four hours during each game at a cost of $125 an hour. Gold Cross agrees to post ambulances at junior varsity football games on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday nights.
After the first 50 days of school, teachers and pupils get a long fall break, courtesy of a calendar developed by a committee of teachers last year. Coupled with an Oct. 17 staff development day that also is a student holiday, the Oct. 20-22 fall break gives pupils six days away from the classroom.
After the death of their son Daniel in 2003, Dan and Angela Hall lead a campaign that prompts Columbia County schools to provide system-owned transportation to school-sanctioned events and to prohibit students from driving other students to events. The policy, which the board approved in October, comes six months after their son Daniel, a junior at Greenbrier High School, and his golf teammate Shane Williams died in an accident while driving to a tournament in Lincoln County.
When the Lakeside Panthers needed help to secure a concession stand after a rash of break-ins, some Evans Knights rode to the rescue. The Evans students, under the direction of metals program instructor Elvin Skidmore, designed, built, painted and installed metal shutters for a concession stand at Lakeside's football stadium.
Three Columbia County high schools and a middle school win their appeals to the Georgia Department of Education to be taken off the needs improvement list. Eight other county schools remain on the list, which is part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
The state Department of Education declares Evans Middle School as surplus property, and the 21-acre site it occupies goes on the market. It is expected that proposals will include shopping centers and professional offices.
After two parent surveys, the school board approves a school calendar for the next two years that includes a four-day fall break.
Columbia County school officials work with health department personnel to vaccinate 1,000 in flu shot clinics. The state's first confirmed case of influenza B in 2003 was in Columbia County. The illness appeared in middle schools in mid-January before spreading throughout the system and pushing absentee rates at some schools to 26 percent.
Roxanne Whitaker is elected chairwoman of the Columbia County school board, her second turn as chairwoman during her eight years on the board. For the second year in a row, Mildred Blackburn is named vice chairwoman.
Evans High School and Warren County's Freeman Elementary School were one of only 26 in the state named a Georgia School of Excellence in Student Achievement.
Citing personal reasons, Evans Middle School Principal Myrel Seigler resigns.
A winter ice storm Jan. 26 has school officials scrambling. Throughout the morning, schools began experiencing power outages, prompting officials to close middle and high schools at 11:15 a.m. and elementary schools at noon. Schools were closed the next day as well.
Evans Middle School Assistant Principal Vanessa Watkins served as acting principal after former Principal Myrel Seigler resigned, but a job description requiring principals to have three years of experience as an assistant principal knocks her out of the running as a permanent replacement, despite overwhelming community and staff support.
Kirk Wright is named the new principal of Evans Middle School. Wright, 34, served for the past two years as assistant principal of North Harlem Elementary School.
Rain turns to ice during the morning of Feb. 26. Columbia County experiences heavy sleeting with accumulations of slush on roadways. The decision to close Columbia County schools is made shortly after 7 a.m. when ice began to accumulate on bridges. Two buses slide into a ditch, but no injuries are reported.
State School Superintendent Kathy Cox challenges local school systems to improve test scores. Richmond and Columbia counties are among 30 school systems taking part in training sessions to increase SAT scores. Cox challenges the 30 school systems to raise their average SAT scores by 1.5 percent, or 13-16 points, by 2005.
Columbia County high schools decide to offer an SAT prep course as an academic elective. Individual schools have offered SAT prep courses after school, and officials say there is a demand to broaden access to the extra tutoring.
A simple test will no longer bar the door to some higher-level middle school courses. Two new gifted courses - science and language arts - are added to the schedule, and all four courses will be open to high achievers.
Evans High senior Ashley Foster wins a spot at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May for her research on drugs to help stoke victims.
Death threats written on the walls of Columbia Middle School. A knife-wielding student at Evans High School. Some of Columbia County's schools produce a flurry of police reports, prompting school officials to take a second look at safety policies.
Doctors Hospital and the American Heart Association join forces to take the fight against sudden cardiac arrest to the area's learning institutions by giving away about 100 automated external defibrillators. The AEDs were donated to public schools in Richmond, Columbia and Burke counties as well as Augusta State University, Augusta Technical College and Paine College.
State Sen. Joey Brush's "Aleana's Law" passes as a Senate Committee amendment. It establishes statewide bus driver training standards and requires school systems to maintain buses and bus safety equipment. It also requires school systems to make available to parents an approximate bus schedule, including starting and ending times.
Ashley Foster, a senior at Evans High School, has conducted research on stroke patients. Her research won several awards at several
science fairs and also a four-week internship at MCG.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
A state House bill passes in the final hours of the legislative session that delays state-mandated class-size reductions for a year and requires third-graders to pass the reading portion of the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test before being promoted to the fourth grade. Dropouts and violent teens can also have their drivers license revoked, under the measure.
Legislation passes to allow a non-binding referendum in the 2004 General Election to ask voters whether the chairman of the Columbia County Board of Education should be elected by the public.
A group of young historians provides funding to preserve and return to Georgia the earliest flag in the state's collection. The Georgia Capitol Museum was awarded a $15,000 grant from the 2003-04 Junior Board of Trustees of the Watson-Brown Foundation to secure an 1846 Georgia Militia flag for its collection.
Superintendent Tommy Price asks the school board to consider a $20 million bond referendum that would immediately provide the money needed to build three new schools. Voters will also be asked to extend the school system's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for another five year cycle - 2007-2012. The proceeds from the penny tax - estimated at $79 million - will repay the bonds. The questions will go to voters in March of 2005.
High schoolers, and some middle-schoolers, take End of Course Tests that are administered for the first time this year in Algebra I, geometry, physical science, biology, ninth-grade literature, American literature and composition, United States history and economics. Ultimately, the tests will replace final exams, but grades this year will not affect course averages or determine if a student is given credit for that course.
Greenbrier High School's varsity golf team hits the first ball on what will be the school's new golf practice green. The green will serve as a memorial to golf teammates Daniel Hall and Shane Williams, who died last year while on their way to a Lincoln County tournament. Both would have graduated from high school this year.
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