Habersham school superintendent reflects on first day back and year ahead

It was back to school Friday for students at Clarkesville Elementary and Habersham County's 13 other public schools. (photo CES Facebook)

On Friday, August 5, over 7,000 Habersham County public school students returned to the classroom. Many of them were met by new principals and assistant principals. Now Habersham asked superintendent Matthew Cooper for his thoughts on how the day went. Here’s what he said:

First day of school

As a school system, we were ready for the First Day. I believe that this school year will be better for our students than any year before. As I begin my 11th year as superintendent in Habersham County, I look forward to the coming year with great optimism, and I am as excited about this coming school year as any in my 21 years as an administrator

For eleven years running, I visited every single school on the First Day. The excitement surrounding the first day of school has not changed for me. I enjoyed visiting all fourteen of our schools today. Our students were all smiling today and staff morale seems to be running high.  I have no doubts that most of our parents were also happy as their children returned to school today.

Enrollment projections

We expect enrollment at all levels to be up a little from last year. We expect the total enrollment in the school system (Pre-K to grade 12) to top out at around 7200 students by Labor Day.

Traffic

We always expect heavier traffic the first few days of school. It seems that many parents drop their children off for the first few days and then switch to having them ride the school bus. This is normal in all school systems. I saw this when I was a Principal in Banks County as well. As a result, some of the traffic issues that folks experience the first few days resolve themselves when fewer vehicles are in the areas of our schools.

It is important for everyone to have extra patience and to get an early start the first few days of school. As a school system, we put our complete trust and confidence in our school resource officers and Sheriff’s Department to manage the traffic around our schools.

During arrival and dismissal, Sheriff Terrell and his team do an exceptional job of keeping our buses and students safe around our schools. We have had very few issues with traffic control over the last few years. When an issue does arise, our resource officers are able to resolve the matter very quickly.

Our resource officers have a strong relationship with our school administrators and they work well together as a team to keep our boys and girls safe. The most important thing is for folks to respect the officers who are working traffic and to be courteous. Aggressive driving and behavior is unacceptable in the proximity of a school.

Effort to place resource officer at every school

It is no secret that our school system values safety above all else. Back in the month of June, our great board of education allocated $400,000 to place six additional resource officers in our schools. The goal is simple – have a resource officer in every Habersham County school. The additional resource officers are being hired by the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office. That office is working diligently right now to find these additional officers.

Colonel Kogod reported yesterday that we now have enough officers in the pipeline to cover every campus in the county. All we are waiting on now is for these new officers to complete their training and to complete the induction process. In the meantime, we have officers covering all school campuses throughout the day.

We knew it would take some time to find six people who are suitable for the school setting, but I have been pleasantly surprised with how quickly the Sheriff’s Office has moved to make this happen for our schools. The partnership that our school system has with the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office is nothing short of exceptional.

Final thoughts

Next week will be our first full week of school. With this in mind, I urge our citizens to exercise extreme caution on our roadways. Habersham County drivers should know that most student fatalities occur at bus stops and are usually the result of drivers passing a stopped school bus, not paying attention or driving too fast.

I am blessed to be in my 11th year as superintendent here in Habersham County.  I often say that Habersham County is the best place to live and work in Georgia. If there were a better place in Georgia, I would be trying to get there. I am grateful to our board of education, system staff, parents, and the community for their unmatched support.

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