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New school year at Sumter School starts with relative ease

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AMERICUS — About 100 teachers had their classrooms moved, a number of bus routes were totally refigured, several media centers were moved, virtually all computers in the system were reformatted, and, in several cases, school stationary was redesigned. These are some of the many changes that had to be achieved in only eight weeks this summer for the Sumter County School System to welcome students under the massive reconfiguration of schools, and it all happened without many people even noticing.

Last spring, the Sumter County Board of Education voted to reconfigure the schools to educate all students of a particular grade level under one roof. Instead of elementary and middle school students attending a particular school based on whether or not the students lived in Americus or outside the city limits, all students in the district now attend: Sumter County Early Learning Center at Sarah Cobb (Pre-k and kindergarten), Sumter County Primary (first and second), Sumter County Elementary (third and fourth), Sumter County Intermediate (fifth and sixth) and Sumter County Middle (seventh and eighth). All ninth-graders attend Americus-Sumter Ninth Grade Academy at Staley and Americus-Sumter High continues to educate students in grades 10-12.

According to Superintendent Donnie Smith, “The only school that was not affected in some way by the reconfiguration was the high school, as the former middle school is now the Intermediate School and the current middle school is now housed at what was the Ninth Grade Academy.”

As a result of the changes, bus service is available to all students in the district.

The move was achieved through effective planning which was led by Associate Superintendent Victoria Harris, hard work and effective implementation by the maintenance staff led by Director Billy Thompkins, and a willingness to go beyond the call of duty by Sumter County teachers, custodians, support staff and administrators.

More than 1,000 boxes for teachers’ classrooms had to be packed and shipped to the correct destination, then unpacked, and the classrooms had to be recreated. Some classes had as many as 78 boxes that had to be moved.

“Many of the teachers chose to come in early and volunteer their time to expedite the process,” said Thompkins. “It was a pretty massive undertaking to get things ready for the children, but we got through it with little or no confusion.”

There are still things to be worked out. Some signs still need to be changed. Websites for all the schools should be updated to a new design in the next few weeks, and there have been some traffic problems at the Early Learning Center, which have been improved through re-directing the flow to alternate avenues. But overall, it was an extraordinary effort that has the superintendent smiling.

“Now we can look forward to a unified school district,” Smith said. “The reconfiguration will allow us to better provide an equitable education for all students in the district. The two former school systems became what is now Sumter County Schools in 1994, now we can look forward to the future of a truly consolidated system that provides the same opportunities for all students.”