ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County School System Superintendent Joshua Murfree, holding his second news conference in as many days, on Wednesday urged parents in the community to have all DCSS students in class when school opens on Aug. 1.
"I have mailed letters to area pastors asking their help and now I am asking the media to help us let every parent know that Monday, Aug. 1st, is day one -- the first day of school -- and success begins on day one," Murfree said. "We will hold a systemwide open house in each one of our 26 schools Sunday afternoon (July 31). The open house schedule will rotate to allow parents with children at the different levels time to visit each school in which they have children enrolled."
Open houses will be held at elementary schools from 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., middle schools from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m., and high schools -- for incoming freshmen parents only -- from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tenth- through 12th-grade high school parents will have a special open house on Sept. 1.
School Board member David Maschke said students who straggle in over the first few weeks of the school year put a major burden on teachers and logistics. He said last year more than 25 percent of the system's 16,000 students trickled in all the way up to Sept. 15.
"Yes, it's a huge problem for us," Maschke said of the the late arrivals. "It creates multiple hardships for us, both educationally and logistically. A teacher can start the year with 26 students, have 28 the next week and 30 the week after that. So, that teacher has to go back each week and recover the material for those late students."
Mascke added late arrivals also cause early havoc with bus schedules and lunchroom operations.
"Since most of the student in Dougherty County are bused to school, it really screws up the bus routes," he said.
Murfree stressed that bus riders must complete a transportation request at the child's school at the time of school registration.
Students who have not made an application for transportation will not be allowed on buses.
Speaking about lunchroom issues, Maschke said, "Dougherty was short 250 students on the first day of school last year. Child nutrition doesn't know whether to make lunch for 200, 600 or 800 people. That's a huge waste of food."
The message Murfree wants out in the community is simple: "Aug. 1 means Aug. 1," the superintendent said. "We are trying to get through to the parents and faith-based groups. There are more than 434 churches in Albany, and they have a captive audience. We are hoping they help us get this important message out.
"It's important that students be in school every day of the school year."