On Monday, Washington County Schools will welcome nearly 8,400 students and 620 teachers and staff back to begin a new school year on its first abbreviated day.
“There’s nothing like the excitement of the beginning of a new school year. New boxes of crayons, unsharpened pencils, seeing friends you haven’t seen all summer, making new friends in new classes and getting to know your new teachers. There’s just nothing to compare with it,” Director Bill Flanary said.
To be more prepared for next week’s influx of students, Flanary said the school system’s professional staff returned to work Monday morning for their annual beginning-of-the-year meeting to give an overview of the upcoming school year with keynote speaker Allen Pratt, executive director of the National Rural Education Association.
While there’s a lot of excitement that comes with the new school year, Flanary said the district has a lot of goals to tackle. Getting students acclimated to the newly opened $28 million Boones Creek K-8 School is one main focus this year, according to Assistant Principal Aaron Christian.
“We’re excited. As an administrative team, our principal (Jordan) Hughes and I have been working all summer coordinating the move and working with our contractors and maintenance and technology departments here just to get the building ready,” he said. “Our priority as administrators is to do school — we’re not typically involved in construction and all the things that go along with that.
“It has been a very busy summer and very busy week, but it’s neat to see a school come up from the ground up like this,” he said.
Other focuses this year include bolstering early-grade literacy and career readiness, as well as increasing pre-K program offerings, according to Flanary.
“My hope this year is that we can find a way to replace the funding we lost when the state zero-funded the Read To Be Ready initiative of previous years. Our next primary goal is to increase the level of college and career readiness of our students. This is something we address every day at all grade levels,” Flanary said Monday.
“Our Board of Education has gone on record supporting an increase in the number of pre-K programs available throughout Washington County,” he said. “I think this is the right direction for us, and certainly goes hand in hand with the early grade literacy initiative I’ve already mentioned. We’ll be looking for ways to fund this initiative as the year progresses.”
Flanary has also been keeping an eye on district enrollment. From the 2016-17 school year to last school year, enrollment went down about 100 students.
“I am cautiously optimistic the decline will be less than anticipated. Fall Branch Elementary, in particular, has seen an increase in enrollment,” he said. “Our new school will almost certainly open at more than 800 students. Only a few months ago, we projected initial enrollment of just over 700.”
Here is a quick look at the district, according to 2018 Tennessee Department of Education data:
• 8,357 students enrolled.
• 531 classroom teachers, 37 administrators and 88 additional staff.
• Grades served: Pre-K through 12th grade.
• 14 schools, including three high schools: Asbury Optional High School, Daniel Boone High School and David Crockett High School.
• $9,071.11 is the average spending per pupil.
• 92.5% of students in Washington County are white, 2.7% are black, 3.5% are Latino and 0.4% are indigenous and other.
For more information on Washington County Schools and the district’s calendar, visit www.wcde.org.