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Posted: August 4, 2012 5:23 p.m.

First day of school, why on a Friday?

Newton County students went back to school on a Friday this year, which left some students and parents befuddled; however, school officials said the first day being on Friday was simply a scheduling necessity.

Officials had to work with a number of factors, including a set 178-day calendar and the desire to have the first semester scheduled to end prior to the winter holiday break, said Shelia Thomas, director of federal programs for the Newton County School System.

Thomas said a representative from each school met to draft the calendar and had to deal with a number of limitations.

"The 178-day school calendar was created with the following concerns in mind: state holidays, required number of days for student attendance, wanting the first semester to end prior to the winter holiday break (Christmas and New Year's), NCSS testing schedule, Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) count and the nine-week grading periods," Thomas said. "The committee created a 2012-2013 calendar to meet the aforementioned concerns and it required school to begin on a Friday. In the 2011-2012 school year, the first day of school was on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. The calendar committee worked very hard to meet the needs of students in Newton County."

In an email sent at the end of the day, Superintendent Gary Mathews said the school system would continue to strive for forward progress.

"In this new 2012-13 school year, we look forward to continued improvement of our student learning outcomes. And we are confident that our teachers and administrators are the right combination for continued progress."

At the same time, he took a minute to look back at the accomplishments of the past year, including:

• Heard-Mixon Elementary being named a Georgia School of Excellence - one of 13 schools in the state to be recognized for the Greatest Gains in Congressional District 8 for the past three years in reading and mathematics.

• Indian Creek Middle: "2011 Georgia Breakout Middle School" - one of 12 schools in the state to be so designated by the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals for the school's academic performance and school improvement initiatives.

• Alcovy High: "2011-12 AP Access & Support School" - one of only 41 high schools in the state to have "at least 30 percent of their Advanced Placement exams taken by students who identified themselves as African-American and/or Hispanic and 30 percent of all AP exams earning scores of a college-level 3 or higher.

• Eastside High: "2011-12 Academic Champions for State of Georgia in Class AAA" - second straight year. This competition comprises two teams of four players facing off with each other on an entire spectrum of questions covering many academic disciplines much like Jeopardy. EHS defeated St. Pius X for the championship.

• Newton County School System: Demonstrated improvement in seven of eight high school subjects tested by Georgia's End-of-Course Tests. (Outperformed the state in five of eight high school subjects - first time.)

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