Story by Jack West, intern for The Elba Clipper
While kids may spend the summer celebrating their three-month long respite from the cinderblock walls of school, administrators, teachers and janitors use those months to ensure that next year is better than the last. Chris Moseley, superintendent of Elba City Schools, said the summer months are usually the busiest for most of the staff. During this time, classrooms are emptied so that floors can be waxed, schedules are changed to reduce class sizes and upgrades are installed to ensure the students are safe. “We want the buildings to look the best they can when the kids come back in,” Moseley said. According to the superintendent, a lot of work this summer is going into making sure the buildings are safe as well as looking good. “There’s been a little bit of extra state funding that has come down this year,” he said. “So, we are really looking at upgrading safety systems, cameras, things like that.” Importantly, all of the upgrades being made are intended to be long-term solutions. This may be as simple as replacing 25-year-old carpet with tile-floors, or as complex as buying the newest cameras. “We’re trying to get things that will last,” Moseley said. “We’re trying to get the most modern cameras, so somebody isn’t having to come in here in ten years and replace it all again. We want something that will be around for a while.” Jason Tucker, assistant principal of Elba High School, said the summer work really begins with an analysis of the previous year. “Usually we start by evaluating last year—like how last year went,” he said. “We look at things we thought we did really well on, things that need improvement, feedback from teachers and feedback from students.” The work to implement those changes is then broken down by month with most of the physical work being done in June and most of the clerical work being done in July. “Everything is geared off of what we think will benefit students next year,” Tucker said. One of the biggest issues the administrators are trying to address this summer is class overcrowding. “Class size in our core classes was always a big concern,” Tucker said. “Some teachers have upwards of 30, which is not unheard of in the state, but it’s large.” To combat this, the high school will implement a five-block schedule with a flex block at the end of the day next year. “With the new schedule we’re able to divide a little more, and class sizes will be around 17,” Tucker said. “I’m most excited about our new schedule for this year,” said Wynn Grimes, principal of Elba High School. “It is going to limit the size of our classes, and we’re real excited about that.” Further additions are also being made in the high school’s career prep program. This will include an Emergency Management Systems certification which will be available to students before graduation. “For current education, it’s about customizing it for the kid,” Tucker said. “The more you customize and help kids find their niche early on in high school, the better they are off outside of high school.” At the elementary school, much of the summer is dedicated to teacher training. “We have several new additions to the staff, and we’re looking forward to being totally student-centered,” said Debra Strickland, principal of Elba Elementary School. Multiple new teachers have been sent to training programs where they will receive information and supplies for the upcoming school year. Across the entire campus, the concurrent theme was that planning during the summer made the school year easier. “Setting the stage in the summer is probably one of the most important things we do,” Strickland said. “If we do a really good job at setting the stage in the summer, then that’s going to make for a smooth year for everybody.” “During the year, you’re really just kind of working the plan,” Tucker said. “So, you try to do as much as you can during the summer to prepare.” A community work-day, where students and parents are asked to help with some of the school’s yardwork, will be held near the end of summer. More details will be available at a later time.