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Buford expands Saturday classes

BUFORD - Originally intended for students learning English as a second language, Saturday classes at some Buford City Schools are being expanded to provide special instruction to more children.

Previously students at Buford Academy and Buford Elementary would need to miss elective classes to receive extra instruction. But allowing more students to take Saturday classes makes it easier for students to stay on top of their studies, Assistant Superintendent Allison Miller said.

"We re-evaluated at the end of the year, and we decided unless the student was really struggling we didn't want to take them out of the elective," she said.

Miller said there will be six teachers and 30 to 40 students at both the academy and the elementary school.

"You'd be surprised how great the attendance is on Saturday," she said. "The teachers make a special effort to take a fresh approach to the content."

Saturday classes at the middle school will still involve primarily English language learners. Miller said Buford has the largest percentage of ELL students in the state.

"We're constantly trying to tweak the program to best move those students up to grade level," she said.

She said there are usually two teachers for 20 students at Saturday classes at the middle school.

High school students can use Saturday classes to make up missed credit hours. In this way a student who missed a lot of classroom time can still graduate with the rest of his or her class.

New jobs

Thursday was the first day of school for Buford students, and it's Geye Hamby's first year as the school system's superintendent.

"We're off to a great start," he said.

Hamby moved up to the post of superintendent after his predecessor, Sue Morris, retired. Then Miller, previously the director of curriculum and instruction, filled in for Hamby in the assistant superintendent position. Morris still works part time on curriculum development as the school improvement specialist.

Miller said she doesn't expect any major changes to the school system.

"There's an awful lot we just want to maintain," she said.

The biggest challenger, Miller said, was staying on top of federal mandates such as the No Child Left Behind Act, which is being reviewed in Washington, D.C. Miller said changes made by Congress can have a "huge impact" on the way things are done at the local level.

"One of the most important things is just staying on top of that," she said.

Hamby served as principal at two different schools in Cartersville before moving to Buford about five years ago

to become assistant

superintendent.

Miller graduated from Buford High School in 1978. Afterward she became a language arts teacher and an assistant principal in Gwinnett County Public Schools.

But it was only a matter of time before she moved back to her hometown school

system.

"I knew sooner or later I was going to come back home," Miller said.

Planning for the future

Although 1,367 trailers are parked outside Gwinnett schools this year, all 2,541 Buford students will be taught in regular school buildings.

"All of our students are in brick buildings, which is unique in today's school setting," Hamby said.

But school officials know overcrowding may soon become a problem. Miller said the elementary school is at capacity, while others are approaching their limits.

If the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is approved by Gwinnett County voters this November, Buford plans to use their cut - about $18 million - of the proceedings to construct additions. Also, because the school system juts into Hall County, Buford will begin receiving about $3 million from that county's SPLOST next year.

Buford Academy, Buford Elementary and Buford High would receive building add-ons, while the grounds at Buford Middle School would be renovated. If any money is left over, Miller said improvements may be made to administrative offices.