8th graders prep for ‘rigorous’ year ahead

By Melonie Flomer

March 25, 2014

HAMLET —Richmond County Ninth Grade Academy officials on Tuesday encouraged parents to work their children in order to prepare them for the “rigorous” year ahead.

The school cafeteria was packed for an hour-long overview of the course registration process for eighth grade students preparing for next year’s course load. The meeting of parents, students and educators emphasized the importance of choosing the best classes for each student’s talents and aspirations for the future —and how do choose them.

Principal Pam Patterson gave most of the floor time to experts in their respective areas: math, science, English and social studies, comprising the four core classes, and a variety of electives including some new subjects to Richmond County.

Cherie Deese, a health science instructor for Richmond County schools announced that beginning next year, freshmen will be able to enroll in the first-level health program that can lead to dual enrollment with Richmond Community College. That approach allows students to earn the Certified Nursing Assistant designation upon graduation. Students will be bussed to Richmond Senior High School for these courses.

Mitch Hadinger, physical education teacher at Richmond Senior High School, introduced a new sports medicine curriculum with four components: training effect, performance enhancing substances, nutrition and body composition.

“This is exciting stuff,” Hadinger said. “Sports medicine can lead you to become a certified trainer, or even prepare you for pre-med school. The more knowledge you have when applying for college, the better your chances of getting what you want from the experience.”

Also new for the 2014-15 academic year, French I joins Spanish I as an option to satisfy the world languages graduation requirement. And in the arts, students with an interest in performing on stage can sign up for a beginning theater elective.

Susan Williams, Ninth Grade Academy counselor, had important words of advice for parents navigating the abundance of information disseminated through the community concerning meeting state high school graduation requirements and preparing graduates for college.

“Listen to your child’s interests, encourage them to explore the choices that appeal to them,” she said.

Patterson also had some words of wisdom for the estimated 200 attendees about the importance of students taking responsibility for their education.

“GPA starts in ninth grade,” she said. “It is important to stay in contact with guidance counselors and Ninth Grade Academy to plan your students’ future. The requirements are rigorous. Students will have to take eight classes per year. Most are semester-based, but some are year-long. There can be no more slacking off the first part of the year and expecting to catch up at the last minute, because semesters are shorter. And absences — students can lose credit for a course if there are too many. In K-8, there isn’t much enforcement of absences, but it all changes now.”

But the most important message Patterson imparted as the meeting came to a close was not about punitive rules or drastic change. It was about empowering students to determine the directions their futures will take, helping them set goals and letting them be responsible.

“When kids have choices,” she said, “they feel they have ownership.”

Current eighth grade students will begin online registration Monday through the Power Schools Student Portal at their child’s middle schools during the regular school day. The registration window runs through April 4. Parents can access the registration system through the new Parent Portal. Any parent who does not have login information for the Parent Portal can get it by contacting their student’s middle school.

For additional help with registration, the Ninth Grade Academy’s computer lab will be available on April 3 from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. where staff will be on hand to assist in all phases of the process.