In lieu of the Sandy Hook shooting in December in which 26 people died, the priority has become making sure students are safe while at school, said school board vice chairman Kim Curl.
“I think we have always been ahead of the game with security,” he said.
Superintendent Cliff Cole said the school district performed an “active shooter” drill last summer which included a sheriff’s deputy entering the school and firing a pistol loaded with blanks at participants.
The event gave the sheriff’s department, emergency medical technicians and other first responders a chance to practice how they would react to a school shooting, he said.
The district employs a sheriff’s deputy at every high school, one for all middle schools to share and none at the elementary schools.
Also, the district has considered different options, such as entrance keypads and swipe cards, to make elementary schools more secure rather than placing officers in all 19 schools, Cole said.
The district’s budget is a challenge because in recent years the amount has decreased annually, said Curl.
“Everybody is worried about their budget,” he said.
Cole noted the county schools have implemented furlough days for employees since 2009 because of budget cuts.
“Budget I think is on everyone’s mind,” Cole said.
An item which could be a positive is a new state funding formula legislators are working on, Curl said.
The old formula was established in 1985, and had become outdated, Cole said. However, the new formula is a cause for uncertainty because no one knows how much the county will receive.
“We will be building our budget off last year’s [budget],” he said.
Another challenge for the district is its move from the Georgia Performance Standard curriculum to the Common Core curriculum this year, Cole said.
The Common Core curriculum is a national standard which about 45 states are currently using, said Susan Browning, the district’s executive director of secondary operations. This change will require the district to send teachers to training, which will have to be factored into the budget, Cole said.
The change exposes students to the same curriculum as other students across the nation. When students are taught the same material it is easier to measure what areas they may struggle in, which could help them prepare for the SAT, ACT and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Cole said.
The National Assessment is given to fourth-, eighth-, and 12th-grade students in math, reading and science, he said.
Curl said there is a need to increase the county’s graduation rate. Paulding County School District’s graduation rate was 76 percent in 2011, according to the Georgia Department of Education.