Wi-Fi on school buses, new trade center to improve Richmond County schools

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News 12 NBC 26 / Monday, April 24, 2017

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- There's a lot going on in Richmond County schools, from new programs to new buildings.

Monday Superintendent Dr. Angela Pringle gave a presentation to some of the community's biggest stakeholders at Augusta Rotary. She says everything they're doing is about improving our local schools.

College is not the only choice after graduating high school. Dr. Pringle says it's her job to make sure students are college or career ready.

"Not everyone will attend a four-year college and graduate from a four-year college. Not everyone has a desire to do that, and we need to say to kids that's actually OK if you're going to be gainfully employed," she said.

To back up that message, they're opening a skills trade center at Josey High School in 2018. It's under construction now.

"We need more students who are prepared to enter construction environment, the maintenance environment, and students are excited about those opportunities. Masonry, electrical work, plumbing work. We all need plumbers," Dr. Pringle said.

Already, 200 students have signed up for the welding program. Dr. Pringle says trade skills programs like that and RPM (Reaching Potential through Manufacturing program) have helped improve their graduation rate.

"Those RPM children were missing 50-60 days of school. Now they're engaged," she said.

She says 19 schools have improved over the last year.

"Our graduation rate increased to 77% last year and dropped just a little bit this past year, but five of our schools are above 80 percent, so it's not all bad. Our kids are graduating," she said.

The key is keeping the students engaged. They're also adding a dance program at Glenn Hills High.

"What we're trying to do is find everyone's niche, and we can't do it all at one time, but we are certainly trying to find clusters of interest," she said.

There are three new schools in the works. The school system is building a new one on Jimmy Dyess Parkway, and they're constructing new buildings for Sego Middle and Wheeless Road Elementary. Each of those will feature a STEM and computer science focus.

"Businesses are coming to us, our own local businesses are saying our children do not come with a computer science background that we need them to have," Dr. Pringle said.

Sometimes the problem is having internet access when they get home, so they've come up with a creative solution. Richmond County is experimenting with Wi-Fi on school buses and parking them in neighborhoods that need access. Right now they have three.

"If we're going to be a cyber community, we cannot have a technological divide, the haves and the have nots. There are children who go home without lights and no access to technology," Dr. Pringle said.

The Superintendent said the school system realizes there's a corridor of poverty in Richmond County, and those schools need the most support. She says it's going to take the whole community.

"To get to where we need to be it's going to take community members to stand in the gap where maybe parents can't stand," she said.

If you have any questions for Dr. Pringle, there are two meetings this week on reassigning students at Sego Middle and Wheeless Road Elementary while their buildings are under construction. Click here for more information.