COVINGTON -- Nearly 19,000 students are expected to return to Newton County schools next week.
After a nearly two-month long summer break, most teachers are returning to their classrooms on Monday for two days of preplanning. New teachers participated in a two-day orientation this week.
Open houses are scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday.
Students are to report back to their schools on Friday.
Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews plans to spend this year focusing on improvement -- the gains already posted and the gains to come.
"Before looking forward, let's look back," he said. "(Criterion-Referenced Competency Test) performance improved in 23 of 30 instances in 2011-12 with our system, and for the first time, surpassing the state in four areas and equaling state numbers in four others. And while we have lots of room for improvement, this is big for the progress of our school system."
He also is pleased with End of Course Testing Performance for last school year, when scores were improved in seven of eight subjects at the high school level surpassing the state.
"This, too, is big for our system and reminds us that we can successfully teach the county's children," Mathews said. "Looking ahead, the question remains as to whether our recent gains on state assessments bode well for improving various college-level assessments. That said, as I've previously suggested, our teachers and principals are on the right track of improved learning for our students."
No new school buildings are expected to open this school year.
Construction crews still are working on a replacement for Newton High School on Crowell and Jack Neely roads. The two-year project is expected to open in time for the 2013-14 school year.
The Newton College & Career Academy opened in April. About 500 students are expected at the school this year, with 700 expected next school year. The school is built to hold 800 students.
Additionally, the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett is welcoming a seventh-grade to its school this year.
The first break for students and staff will be Sept. 3 for Labor Day, followed by a fall break from Sept. 25 through 28.
They also will get breaks for Thanksgiving from Nov. 19 through 23 and the holidays from Dec. 21 through Jan. 4.
After the new year, students and staff will get another break on Jan. 21 for the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, and they get a winter break from Feb. 18 through 22. Spring break is scheduled April 1 through 5.
Early release days for students are scheduled for Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16, Jan. 18, Feb. 15 and March 29 for teacher conferences and staff professional learning.
The last day of school for students is Friday, May 24.
Teachers have post-planning scheduled for May 28 and 29, after Memorial Day.