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What's new for the new school year? Plenty!

When its 132 school buses roll and LCPS welcomes more than 8,500 students for the 2019-2020 school year on Monday, the familiar faces and the well-honed routines won't be able to hide the fact that there's a lot of new in the new year.

In fact, from new classes to new-look cafeterias to a new layer of concrete at a middle school gym, there's too much new to list individually. Here's a look at some of the highlights:

-- Two new principals. Rashard Curmon takes over at Northeast Elementary School, bringing his passion for literacy instruction and, as a New Bern native with teaching and administrative experience in neighboring counties, his understanding of education in rural eastern North Carolina. Christel Carlyle, who's been a principal intern and assistant principal as well as a teacher with LCPS, is the new school leader at Southwood Elementary.
Young female teacher plrunes zinnias growing in a raised bed -- Expanded coding curriculum. For the second time in three years, LCPS has been awarded a grant from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to bring instruction in computer coding to students. With the first grant award two years ago, the district began instruction in middle and high school. This year, the curriculum expands to K-5 with plans to eventually take it into pre-K. The goal is to give every student in the system as much instruction in coding as suits them, with the high school courses offered as electives that can lead into college-credit courses at LCC, as they were last year. 
-- School security. LCPS will be rolling out this fall a new anonymous reporting app for students in accordance with NC Department of Public Instruction guidelines. Work is wrapping up on security improvements to school buildings -- buzz-in systems at entrances, updated video networks, etc. -- in a project that began last school year and LCPS is developing a system with security experts that will vastly improve schools' connection to law enforcement and first responders in the event of an emergency.
-- College-level instruction. LCPS's already-strong partnership with Lenoir Community College will be enhanced through the participation of our high schools in the LCC's Advanced Manufacturing Center, where students will work towards a certificate in Industrial Systems Technology, Computer-Integrated Machining, Computer Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering. Students had to apply to the program and be accepted. Students will be taking courses at LCC in the fall, and will begin at the new center in the spring. In all, LCPS expects to have more than 600 students enrolled in college-level classes through LCC and the Career and College Promise program.
-- Focus on nutrition. LCPS is introducing salad bars and chef salad entrees in its middle school cafeterias as the district continues to introduce nutritious items that have wide appeal among students. LCPS is also moving ahead with physical improvements to cafeterias in a project that began last year. The fresh fruit and veggie snack program is expanding to two more elementary schools, putting the USDA funded program in 6 schools for 2019-2020. Second Chance breakfast, popular in high schools because its gives teens a chance to get a grab-and-go breakfast later in the morning, will be introduced at Lenoir County Learning Academy.
-- Capital improvements. As always, there have been physical improvements made to school facilities over the summer. For example, North Lenoir High students will return to a repaved parking lot, a refurnished athletic complex and a new HVAC system in the media center building. Pink Hill Elementary is adding bathrooms at its athletic field, thanks to the PTA, and replacing the footbridge to the fields. Northwest Elementary will unveil its new outdoor classroom, a project devised by teachers and funded in part by a campus improvement grant from the school district, a grant awarded every year on a competitive basis.

Photo caption:

Northwest Elementary teacher Kaitlyn Hill tidies up a flower bed behind the school on Friday as the clock ticks down toward the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year on Monday.