By Paul T. Choate
July 30, 2012. Today marks the first of four days during which Watauga High School is holding orientation with the senior class in attendance. Juniors will have orientation tomorrow, followed by sophomores and then freshmen on Aug. 1 and 2.
Orientation at the high school is staggered over four days to give students opportunities to meet their classmates “before they are all thrown in together,” said Watauga County Board of Education Chair Deborah Miller.
On Aug. 8, Watauga County Schools and Avery County Schools will hold the first day of classes for the 2012 – 2013 year. Miller said about 4,500 students will be returning for classes in Watauga. According to greatschools.org, there are about 2,100 students in Avery County schools. The only exceptions to the Aug. 8 state date are pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes. They begin on a staggered schedule over several days and parents were notified in advance what day their children would start.
The early-August start date is an unusual starting date compared to most school systems in the state. However, due to the winter weather conditions it is common for High Country schools.
“We get a weather waiver because of the number of days we miss in the winter due to snow and ice,” said Miller. “It enables us to get in a semester by the Christmas break most of the time.”
The Watauga County Board of Education is holding a work session this evening, July 30 at 7 p.m., to discuss the school calendar. One topic of discussion will likely be a new state law that will apply to next year. The law states that schools cannot start earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26. In the case of schools in areas that receive inclement winter weather such as in Watauga and Avery the earliest start date is set at the Monday closest to Aug. 19.
Depending on how severe the winter weather is, this could potentially cause High Country schools to be unable to finish their first semester prior to the Christmas break. Additionally, according to Miller, days in which school is delayed will no longer count toward the weather waiver.
Despite concerns pertaining to the new law however, Miller expressed optimism regarding the upcoming year.
“We have a new superintendent so we’re ready to roll,” she said. “We’re excited about the possibilities. We have some changes coming with the mandated common core essential standards but we feel like have good staff and good leadership. We’ll meet all those challenges and it will be an excellent school year.”
To view a release from Watauga County Schools pertaining the start of the school year, check out hcpress.com/?p=35563.