Back to School!

Published 5:32 pm Tuesday, August 23, 2022

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The hallways are clean and clear, teachers have redecorated their classrooms, and the desks are lined up and waiting. Local school districts are getting ready to welcome back students for the 2022-23 school year.

For most Northampton County students, classes will begin on Aug. 29. Northampton County Early College students, however, began their school year on Aug. 10.

Northampton County Schools has a projected enrollment of 1,236 students in kindergarten through 12th grade this year. In June, the Northampton County Board of Education voted to close Willis Hare Elementary School. WHES students in third grade or below will now join their classmates at Central Elementary, while fourth and fifth graders will attend Conway Middle School.

Principals in Northampton’s district include Larry Ferebee (Northampton County High School), Monica Edmonds (Northampton County Early College and Northampton Virtual School), Darren Parker (Conway Middle School), Jagtar Singh (Gaston STEM Leadership Academy), and Tameka Robinson (Central Elementary School).

Northampton Schools Interim Superintendent Dr. Del Burns told the News Herald that the district was continuing to follow guidance from NC Department of Public Instruction and NC Department of Health and Human Services for COVID protocols. For athletics, there are no COVID protocols in place “at this time.”

Burns said practices for Fall sports began at the beginning of the month, and the first games of the season for the football and volleyball teams were held last week.

Recruitment for teachers and staff is always ongoing in the district, Burns said, but noted that they do not have many teacher vacancies at this time. He also reported that the county Board of Education recently approved a significant retention and recruitment bonus for all of the employees working at Northampton County High School.

“It’s a one-time bonus paid in September,” he added.

The Board also recently approved purchasing new Chromebooks for every student and teacher in the district. Burns explained that these new devices for students will be used not only for schoolwork in the classroom but as a resource at home as well. He estimated that the new equipment will be arriving in September.

“We’re just looking forward to getting students back in the building, and focusing on learning and teaching,” Dr. Burns concluded.

For Bertie Early College students, Aug. 18 started the beginning of classes for the school year. All other students in Bertie public schools are set to go back starting Aug. 29.

The projected enrollment for the year is approximately 1,800 students, according to Bertie County Schools Superintendent, Dr. Otis Smallwood.

With the remaining impact of COVID-19, schools across the state are suffering from staffing shortages. For Bertie County, the plan is to branch out and hire from various regions.

“We’re still recruiting and hiring from every possible place we can. Retirees are helping with the shortages. Some teachers will assist by teaching an extra course during the planning periods. We are utilizing international teachers,” said Dr. Smallwood.

Principles for this year consist of Jonathan Matthews (Bertie High School), Antonio Hoggard (Bertie Early College High School), Ashley Bradley (Bertie Middle School), Clara Lee (Windsor Elementary), Daphne Williams (Colerain Elementary), Natasha Stephenson (Aulander Elementary), Towanda Smallwood (West Bertie Elementary), and Bobbi Holley (Director of Askewville Pre-K).

Across the school district, COVID protocols such as face coverings and masks will be optional this year. However, athletics will still be affected by COVID protocols. The first game of the season kicked off on August 18.

Students and parents can look forward to new and improved environments and connections for the upcoming school year.

“New attitudes, new mindsets, and new partnerships with higher education institutions,” promised Dr. Smallwood.

In Hertford County, students at Hertford County Early College began classes on Aug. 4. All other students in the district will start the new school year on Aug. 29. The district is projecting an enrollment of approximately 2,400 students, ranging from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

Principals in Hertford County’s district this year include Julie Shields (Bearfield Primary School), Elenia Riddick (Ahoskie Elementary School), Deborah Brown (Riverview Elementary School), Terrell Deloatch (Hertford County Middle School), Ronica Watford (Interim, Hertford County High School), Larry Murry (CS Brown STEM High School), and Lyndsay Britt (Hertford County Early College).

Interim Superintendent Tammi Ward reported that Hertford County Schools will follow CDC recommendations for contagious disease protocols this year. Parents will receive an information guide by the beginning of the school year.

Athletics in the district are underway with some Fall sports having already played their first games of the season.

Hertford County Schools did not share information about any potential staffing shortages, but said they are continuing to seek qualified candidates through all recruitment sources and locations.

“As a district, we are participating in ‘grow your own’ initiatives and grant funding for positions where shortages are most significant,” Ward said.

For the upcoming school year, the district is placing an emphasis on instructional strategies.

“We are excited for professional development and new resources to be added that focus on curriculum standards and how we can assist our students with increasing their current level of proficiency,” Ward explained.

“In order for HCPS to be successful, we need everyone to be ‘All In for Learning,’” she continued. “This will be a year where ‘New Thinking for New Times’ brings growth and proficiency for all our students.”

(MacKenzie Moody, the News-Herald’s summer intern, contributed to this story.)