Back to School!

Local school districts have welcomed back students for the 2022-23 school year.

In Gates County, public school students returned to class this past Monday (Aug. 29). Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams said the district is projecting an enrollment of 1,435 students for the 2022-23 academic year.

Williams stated that students and staff continue to follow COVID protocols.

“At this time, we are still under an optional mask policy,” Williams said, adding that all current COVID-related protocols can be found on the district’s webpage.

He noted that athletics will only be affected if several members of a team test positive for COVID. In that case, a team may be shut down for a period of time to reduce exposure.

When asked what was new for Gates County Public Schools this year, Williams was quick to point out that a fitness facility has opened at the high school.

“We renovated the old gym at GCHS to create the facility,” Dr. Williams said. “The basketball goals and scoreboards have been removed, repainted the entire gym, updated the lighting to LED, added new rubberized flooring, installed astro turf, purchased cardio equipment, new weight racks, dumbbells and machines. Batting cages for softball and baseball will be installed as well. Materials have been ordered to begin the renovation of the old locker rooms. HVAC will be installed in November.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony for the new facility is scheduled for Sept. 16.

“We are renovating Gatesville Elementary School with the awarded grant funding from the Needs Based Public Schools Capital Funds,” Dr. Williams continued. “Grant applications have been submitted for renovations at Gates County High School, TS Cooper Elementary School and Buckland Elementary School and we are hopeful that the grants will be awarded.”

He added that a parking lot at the high school has been repaved, and that cross country has been added as a new sport at Central Middle School.

“We’ve also been awarded a grant to revitalize the tennis courts with the scope of work beginning in early spring,” Williams stated.

There is also new participation in the ECU Pirate Leadership Academy with Leslie Wright, Krystal Williams, and Carledia Dozier.

At the individual schools within the district, Williams said he is confident of the leadership abilities of the principals and assistant principals. That team of leaders includes Gail Hawkins (Buckland Elementary School Principal), Joyeria Brothers (Gatesville Elementary School Principal), Dr. Tammy Boone – principal – and Lovie Roscoe – Assistant Principal – at TS Cooper Elementary School, Principal Kelly Eure and Assistant Principal Renita Langston at Central Middle School, and Principal Jonathan Hayes and Assistant Principals Susan Casper and Kristal Brooks at Gates County High School.

Like many school districts across the state, Dr. Williams noted that the new year opens without a full compliment of faculty and staff. He said there is currently a need to fill six teaching vacancies, one School Nutrition assistant, two Speech & Language Pathologists, and one School Psychologist. Additionally there are vacancies among substitute teachers, bus drivers, and custodial staff.

“We are partnering with TeachNC to offer job recruitment events, scholarship opportunities, and reimbursement for cost associated with applying for participation in an Educator Preparation Program,” stated Dr. Williams when talking about strategies to address staffing shortages. “We are also exploring virtual options to offer direct instruction and related services in the Exceptional Children’s Program; offering signing bonuses to fill licensed areas; and partnering with local colleges and universities to host student interns, offer professional development, and provide pathways to practice options for classified staff.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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