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School Board Chairwoman Kyla Cromer shared with the Canton Rotary Club highlights from the district, including the new social and emotional learning initiative and the board’s tougher vaping policy, as well as some long-range plans for construction and school campus improvements.

CANTON — Cherokee County School District is working to increasingly meet the needs of its over 42,000 students, and invites parents to learn more about what’s going on in schools, School Board Chairwoman Kyla Comer told the Rotary Club of Canton Tuesday.

Cromer shared with the club highlights from the district, including the new social and emotional learning initiative and the board’s tougher vaping policy, as well as some long-range plans for construction and school campus improvements.

As of the third day of school Monday, there were 42,017 students enrolled across the district’s 40 schools and centers, over 800 more than on the first day of school, and about 300 more than on the same day last year.

The school board chair recalled a weekend baseball game to illustrate the district’s student population.

“They announced the attendance there was 41,149 people. You take a look at all the people that are in the Braves stadium — we transport, educate, love, feed, be there for more than that every single school day,” she said.

Over the summer, board members created a new position to lead social and emotional learning, for which longtime district leader Debra Murdock was appointed. The initiative, which will support students’ emotional and mental health, will focus on five main areas: self awareness, social awareness, responsible decision making, self management and relationship skills.

“We want our kids to know that we care about them and we want them to be successful,” Cromer said, adding that CCSD will be “leaders in the state” in SEL.

This school year began with a tougher “zero tolerance” policy on vaping, under which any students found with vaping devices or oil will be treated as if they are in possession of felony-level marijuana.

“(A vape device) contains an oil that may or may not be nicotine. It might be CBD, it might be THC oil. We don’t know what’s in there. A lot of times they’ll buy these things off the internet, and it’s not labeled,” she said.

The school board chair also encouraged audience members to contact their principal if they ever have a question or a complaint about their child’s school.

Future school projects include new restrooms at the Etowah High School stadium to be finished by next school year, an agriculture science lab facility for Creekview High School, which has received state funding and could start construction early next year, and planned expansions to add more classrooms to Woodstock Middle School and a new gym to Woodstock High School, estimated for 2022.

Applications are now open for CCSD’s Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning Academy, or VILLA, six weeks of programming with school district staff for a behind-the-scenes look at the district’s schools.

“We want parents and community members, but parents get first dibs, because we want parents to come in learn more about what’s going on in our schools,” Cromer said.

Due to the program’s popularity, a second session has been added this year.

Sessions are scheduled for mornings and evenings, 9 to 11 a.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 Mondays, Oct. 7, 21, 28 and Nov. 4 and 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21. Graduation is at the 7 p.m. school board meeting in Canton.

To apply or for more information, see the CCSD Connections parent newsletter at www.cherokeek12.net.

Shannon is a reporter covering education, city governments, crime, features, religion and other local news. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and currently lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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