New school year, new strategies

Published 9:30 am Friday, August 11, 2023

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A new school year often means renovated classrooms and updated school policies. For Chambers Academy and Lanett City Schools, the start of the new school year went off without a hitch.

Chambers Academy

For its 2023-2024 school year, Chambers Academy made the transition to a five-period modified block schedule. 

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With this model, sixth through twelfth grade students will have longer 77-minute class periods. They will study English and math all year and switch their science, history and elective classes each semester. 

Students and parents received their schedules and an explanation of how the new system operates two weeks before school started. Chambers Academy School Head Jon Owens said he has been interested in transitioning to the modified block schedule, and this was the perfect time to do it. 

“It went very smooth,” Owens said. “In over 30 years of education, that might be the smoothest first day I’ve ever had.”

“I think it works better than what we’ve been doing,” said junior Tyane Anthony, who has been at Chambers Academy since first grade. 

The new schedule system also works well for the rising student population, Owen said. In the past five years, the student body has grown by 45%. Since last year, the student population has increased from 287 to 316.

“A couple years ago it was just like 15 kids in a class, and it’s grown a lot,” said senior Sarah Jane Nelms, who came from a high school with a student body of 1,000. “But it was definitely a culture shock. It’s nice that everybody knows everybody on a personal level.” 

Chambers Academy hired five new teachers for the new year. John Summerfield, Libby Shaddox, Debra Hamer, Allison Burton and Kim Davidson all joined the faculty team. 

Over the summer, Owens said they focused on renovating several classrooms, including the science lab and the computer lab/multipurpose room. Many of the projects for the summer involved renovating the interior facility. 

Recently, the school has also worked to cultivate a positive school culture and improve the school’s outreach in the community. The website and social media have been revamped by a marketing committee made up of parents and board members.

Chambers Academy ambassadors have also helped to create a more engaged student body. About 12-13 students are the ambassadors and volunteer for open houses and graduation ceremonies.

Lanett City Schools

This year, Several programs from Lanett City School System’s strategic plan started last school year will continue to grow. 

Lanett City School’s mental health services coordinator will be working to identify and address student needs. A new career coach will also be working with students to get them career ready. 

“The school year has gotten off to a great start,” said Lanett City Schools Superintendent Jennifer Boyd.

Over the summer, W. O. Lance Elementary School building received a completely new HVAC system. 

“We’re doing everything we can to meet the needs of our ESL students,” Boyd said. 

The Hispanic population at Lanett City Schools has increased over the last few years, according to Boyd. The schools are set up with ESL staff and classes to make sure all students succeed. 

“Safety is always a priority,” Boyd said.

The school buildings have gotten updated security cameras, and the safety protocol was refreshed. Boyd said students and faculty will have refresher drills in the coming weeks. 

A school resource officer will once again be assigned to each facility this year. Renovations for the football stadium will also continue. 

“Keep your eye on Lanett,” Boyd said. “There’s going to be a lot more to come.”