Dougherty Co. teachers prepare for back-to-school changes
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Students in Albany will hit the books again on Tuesday as teachers in the Dougherty County School System are excited to welcome their students back.
“This year, our school theme is One Team, One Goal. One Team, One Goal, " said Dr. Shanekia Williams, Merry Acres Middle School principal.
This year about 13,000 students are expected to return throughout the Dougherty County School system. That’s why, Dougherty County Schools Superintendent Kenneth Dyer said student academic achievement is top of mind as there are still lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were on a great trajectory in terms of academic achievement prior to the pandemic. Of course, like we saw nationwide, we saw a difference in student achievement after the pandemic,” he said.
Six new pre-k classrooms will also be added to the district to help improve early literacy rates. But just like students’ academics took a hit during the pandemic, so did their mental health.
According to the CDC, more than 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic. That’s why this year, thanks to a $15 million grant, 17 new behavioral health specialists will start in the school district to support students’ mental needs.
“That’s important. We want to make sure we focus on the whole child not just in the classroom, but outside the classroom as well,” Dyer said.
Dyer added that new community partnerships will kick off this school year, and benefit students and their parents. One program, called Men Under Construction, will connect male students to community organizations for mentoring opportunities. And through a partnership with Albany Tech., the school system will launch its level-up program which will provide job skills training to parents who may be unemployed.
“Our engagement with not only students but also their families and helping them get a leg up, we’re really excited about that new program,” he said.
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