School buses line up at the end of the day at Harpers Ferry Middle School.
Jefferson County Schools (JCS) welcomed students back to the classrooms on August 21. The first day enrollment number was just under 8,300, but official counts won’t be available until October (inbound transfers and late enrollments can change the numbers significantly over the first month of school). A JCS spokesperson indicated that all but two classroom vacancies had been filled as of the first day, with long-term substitutes in 13 percent of the classroom positions. JCS reports that many of these substitutes intend to seek full teaching certification through WV’s alternative certification program.
The new superintendent, Dr. Chuck Bishop, shared a message of openness to change to mark the start of his tenure and the beginning of the new school year: “The education landscape has changed over the years, and it is our responsibility to adjust accordingly. Jefferson County Schools does many things well, but our collective goal should be to Elevate Jefferson.” He described “Elevate Jefferson” as a fresh approach to reviewing processes, procedures, and practices that work well and considering alternative solutions when necessary. Bishop also touched on the topic of bullying, an issue that received much attention but no resolution, through various Board of Education committee meetings last spring: “There is no place in our school system for harassment, bullying, intimidation, or hate speech, and each of us has a responsibility to ensure that it is not tolerated.”
Being In The Classroom Makes The Difference
The school system is starting the school year with a focus on attendance. The nationwide post-pandemic drop in academic proficiency scores has focused attention on the link between consistent classroom attendance and academic performance, backed by a broad amount of research.
JCS has designated September as “attendance awareness month” — an early emphasis intended to establish strong attendance patterns. In a short video presentation available on its website, JCS notes that students who miss fewer than 9 days of classroom instruction have the best chances of strong academic performance throughout the year. On the other hand, students who miss more than 18 classroom days throughout the year are very likely to struggle academically — and the results are cumulative, spilling into the following year and significantly increasing the likelihood of dropping out of high school before graduation for students with chronic absenteeism.
To put those numbers into perspective, a single absence each month translates into 9 absences over the entire year. Two absences each month equates to 18 days — 10 percent of the year’s classroom time. The JCS presentation notes that students, parents, and teachers working together can help offset the loss of classroom instruction time for children who need to be out of school for illness or other reasons, but that it’s important to be proactive, reporting necessary absences to improve the opportunities to provide timely alternative instruction and learning resources.
For further information about the JCS “Attendance Matters” initiative, visit jcswv.org/page/attendance-matters-all-day-every-day.
Additional resources available through the JCS Parent and Educator Resource Center (jcswv.org/page/parent-and-educator-resources).By Staff Contributor