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POSTED: August 7, 2007 5:02 a.m.
When school starts in August, students at Walker Middle School will notice a change from last year. That’s because students in grades sixth through eighth will be split up, with boys and girls in different classes for most of the day.
The decision to move to gender-based classes was made during this month’s Long County Board of Education meeting at the recommendation of Principal Vicky Wells.
Wells said the students would still be able to interact at lunch, during breaks and in a few classes.
“We tried it last year with the sixth grade and discipline referrals went down, while academic scores went up significantly,” she said.
According to Wells, the CRCT scores for the sixth grade showed reading improved from a 79 to 87, English scores went rose from 74 to an 83, and math scores went from a 61 to a 71.
“I’m not saying that the classroom change was the only reason for the scores going up, but I’m sure it did make a difference,” Wells said.
Wells also said that she had received input from both the teachers and several parents, and they overwhelmingly supported the idea.
The board also voted to make two changes regarding student athletics for the upcoming year.  
According to Athletic Director Shawn Peek and the high school assistant principal, David Edwards, there had been a “big problem” with students being tardy, the following day, after playing in away games during the week.
Peek said, he had already stopped allowing students to stop on the way back from these games in an attempt to curb the excessive tardiness, but the problem had still continued.
As a result, he requested the school board change the disciplinary procedure for these tardy days to the following; upon the first tardy — a verbal warning, with the second tardy — a written referral warning, and with the third tardy — a (one) game suspension.
“The students have to know that school is first,” Peek said.
He also requested the school board require all students to pay their participation dues in full for the sport they are playing before being allowed to participate in another sport.
Board members voted to make both of the changes for the upcoming year.
The board also made several financial decisions during the meeting, including purchasing two 72-passenger buses at a cost of $67,962 each.  
They also followed up on business from the June meeting, and decided to purchase two portable classrooms from the Liberty County BOE at a price of $23,000 each. Each portable is set up for two classrooms.
The board also voted to accept a sealed bid of $7,500 for a land improvement project at Smiley Elementary School.
The school has one playground at present, but because of growth, a second playground is needed. The project will include clearing and preparing the land for a second playground.
Superintendent Dr. Edwin Pope also informed the board the existing playground had been remodeled recently, and wanted to thank all who had helped with the project.  
“The playground looks really nice. The football team, and some other volunteers with Alex Mason (SouthScape Landscaping) worked a number of days on it, and we all are very appreciative for what they did,” Pope said.
The board also congratulated all the Long County schools for making the AYP list for the 2006-2007 school year.
 

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