It’s been one month since school started and so far the year is looking pretty great, according to officials.
“I feel good about the year,” said Forsyth County Superintendent Buster Evans. “It’s work. It always is, but our people always rise to the occasion.”
One thing that required almost immediate attention was student population growth. Since the first day of school on Aug. 9, more than 530 new students have enrolled in the system.
Placing the late arrivals without creating overcrowded classes was somewhat of an unsolvable puzzle. To meet the challenge, leaders hired eight additional teachers.
“Of course, any time that you gain over 500 new students in a school year, you certainly have to make some adjustments from your original projections,” said Associate Superintendent Lissa Pijanowski.
The increase in students also led to juggling of schedules.
“We’ve had a lot of things going on to make sure we’re providing kids with the best learning environment with the growth,” she said.
Adjustments also had to be made in the system’s transportation department. Leaders spent a couple weeks getting everything in order, said transportation director Garry Puetz.
“Buses and routes have been operating on an established schedule since the second week of school,” Puetz said. “We will continue to monitor our routes and make minor adjustments when needed to accommodate new students to the district.”
While it’s been a little more work for the school system, the unexpected growth points to a positive trend, Pijanowski said.
“It gives us a sense that things are picking up,” she said. “There are lots of districts that are losing enrollment and we are gaining students, which is great and we love it.”
One thing that’s a constant with any new school year is testing. Already students have begun taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, and next week leaders will begin administering the Cognitive Abilities Test and the first round of high school graduation tests.
“It literally begins in the month of September and follows us pretty much throughout the year,” Evans said.
The system rolled out the iAchieve Virtual Academy on Aug. 30. Some 140 students are participating in the online learning school, but there’s already a waiting list of nearly 20 more.
Evans said the academy, which allows students to work at home at their pace, is one way the system is striving to meet the needs of all students.
“We’re continuing the things that we’ve done in the past,” Evans said. “But we’re also continuing to find new ways to help us better serve student needs and to achieve at even higher levels.”
Evans said it also helps that every school in the system has the same principal as last year. That hasn’t happened in a while, Evans said, adding the consistency provides stable and customized leadership for students and teachers.
Pijanowski said there will always be challenges that pop up during the year but for now, “we’re definitely in the swing of things."
“We’re settled in and we’re ready to go,” she said. “Our teachers have been phenomenal. They have hit the ground running and so have our kids.”