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Students, teachers return to schools this week

Staff Photos: Erin Evans
 Kindergarten teacher Burny Drumheller spent Monday afternoon clearing off her desk at the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett in preparation for incoming students on Thursday morning. The parent-involvement theme school moved from Fairview Elementary School, where it was last school year, to Ficquett this school year; Fairview will revert to a traditional elementary school. 

Staff Photos: Erin Evans Kindergarten teacher Burny Drumheller spent Monday afternoon clearing off her desk at the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett in preparation for incoming students on Thursday morning. The parent-involvement theme school moved from Fairview Elementary School, where it was last school year, to Ficquett this school year; Fairview will revert to a traditional elementary school. 

COVINGTON — About 19,000 students will start back to school in Newton County on Thursday.

After a summer break, teachers returned to schools this week to get their classrooms ready for the 2011-12 school year. Elementary teachers returned to schools on Friday, and secondary teachers returned to their classrooms on Monday. Some administrators and other staff members had returned to schools earlier to prepare their buildings.

Some had to adjust to some changes for the upcoming school year.

Flint Hill Elementary School will open on Airport Road in north Newton County near Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford. All students and staff from Palmer-Stone Elementary school are transferring to the new school, and some students from East Newton and Ficquett elementary schools also were rezoned to attend the new school.

Palmer-Stone was phased out of state funding along with Newton High School and Ficquett Elementary School, and it now will serve as centralized storage, a base location for itinerant teachers and the location of the Mainstay program that was housed at Sharp.

Ficquett will serve as the location of the parent-involvement theme school this upcoming school year under the name of the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett and serving kindergarten through sixth grades. Fairview Elementary School, where the theme school was housed last school year, had reverted back to a traditional elementary school.

Sharp Learning Center also was closed this school year; NCSS decided to outsource its alternative school program to save funding. Ombudsman, a national provider of alternative education, will serve those students at two locations in the county — a west location at 13015 Brown Bridge Road, Suite 610, in the Publix Plaza near Salem Road in Covington, and an east location at 10154 Carlin Drive near Johnny's Pizza at the Covington Bypass in Covington.

Students also will have to adjust to some changes due to budget cuts this school year.

Bus schedules and bell times were changed to adjust to a staff cut in the transportation department. Elementary schools will begin at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m., while middle schoolers will attend school from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. and high schoolers from 8:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. High schoolers also will be on a seven-period schedule this year, instead of a 4-by-4 block schedule like last school year due to staff cuts.

Schools are holding open houses this week and next week for incoming students — middle schools will be open from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. today, elementary schools for the same time frame on Wednesday and high schools for the same times on Monday. Students may get to meet their teachers, get class schedules and tour their schools, and parents may get bus routes, sign up for PTO and other volunteer opportunities, drop off school supplies, prepay for meal accounts and handle other necessary items.

If they haven't done so over the summer, parents or guardians can register their new students for school.

They must provide their photo ID and, if necessary, proof of custody or guardianship if the birth parent is not registering the student. They also must bring a certified copy of the student's birth certificate and the student's Social Security card.

Additionally, they must bring two health forms — Form 3231, the Georgia Certificate of Immunization, and Form 3300, the Georgia Certificate of Eye, Ear and Dental Examination — for students entering a Georgia public school for the first time.

Parents also must provide two current proofs of residency, which includes a lease agreement or a mortgage statement, along with a utility bill.

If applicable, parents must supply withdrawal forms or a final report card from the student's previous school and, for students entering seventh through 12th grades, a certified copy of the student's discipline report or a letter from the school stating that the child has no discipline record. Test scores also might be required.

This school year, students will get extended breaks over Thanksgiving, at the end of December, in mid February and at the beginning of April. The 2011-12 school year ends on May 23.

More information about registration, school supplies, open houses, calendars and other items are available at the student's assigned school, at the Newton County Board of Education building at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington and on the NCSS website, www.newtoncountyschools.org, which links to individual school Web sites.

Rockdale County and Henry County schools started the new school year Monday.