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Opening of new junior high school is on school system horizon

Since the school system year runs from July 1 to June 30, the system is already six months into their program. Yet Superintendent Mark Petersen said there are big things happening in 2008.

"Obviously the new school is coming into play," he said. "A lot of groundwork currently is being done and will continue to be done during the month of January to work on scheduling, staffing, curriculum and working to open up that building in the fall."

Construction on the exclusively eighth and ninth grade school is contracted to be completed July 1, 2008. Named "Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School" in November by a school board committee, the school will have the capacity to house 850 students. Dr. Petersen said most of the faculty will transfer to the new building, with eighth grade teachers coming from the middle school and ninth grade teachers coming from the high school.

Because the concept of eighth and ninth grades together is new, Dr. Petersen said the ninth graders will continue to participate in extra-curricular activities, such as athletics, at the high school and eighth graders will participate at the middle school.

Norris Elementary Principal Steve Rhodes was appointed several months ago to be principal of the new school. Dr. Petersen said the school system has been accepting applications for the past three months for a new Norris Elementary principal. The Superintendent said a committee made up of Norris Elementary staff members, leadership team members and school council members will begin screening the applicants on Jan. 7.

A long-awaited program also will begin at the high school in July - the Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. The program teaches students citizenship, patriotism and leadership skills along with fundamental military knowledge.

Dr. Petersen said his faculty is already diligently preparing for state required testing to begin in the next few months, and "expecting good results." He said the system's four over-arching goals are still in effect for the year: increasing academic achievement, having safe and orderly schools, hiring the best possible personnel, and getting better parental involvement.

"We're having a good holiday break, and a good rest," he said during a telephone interview Friday. "Before you know it, we'll be back to work putting our noses to the grindstone. I think we will be in good shape."

Web posted on Thursday, January 03, 2008

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