Building program, recent recognition buoy Loudon school leaders

By Hugh G. Willett

LOUDON When schools open in Loudon County this week, the students and faculty at Philadelphia Elementary School will be the first to see the results of a school building program more than five years in the making.

The Philadelphia cafeteria will benefit from more than $1 million dollars in long overdue upgrades.

Last year, the 665 Pre-K to 8th graders at the school had to start lining up to begin eating lunch as early as 10:45 a.m., according to principal Maria Warren.

"We used to only have one serving line. Now we will have two lines," she said.

The kitchen at the school also includes new ventilation equipment and other appliances that will make it easier to serve more meals in less time.

The expansion has greatly increased seating capacity and overall space that can be used for other gatherings, including book fairs. Sound panels on the walls will reduce noise.

The biggest benefit to the children's education will be the 90 minutes of uninterrupted study for each subject enabled through the time savings during lunch.

"Before, we had to start reading and math classes, stop for lunch, and then start again after lunch," Warren said.

Loudon Schools Director Jason Vance is pleased with the progress of a building program at Philadelphia, the Greenback School and Fort Loudoun Middle School.

He's even more pleased that last week Loudon County Schools was recognized as one of 22 school districts in Tennessee to achieve "exemplary" status as a part of the new accountability process.

"It is an exciting time for our district," Vance said.

For the 2012-13 school year, Tennessee is moving toward Common Core standards with Loudon County piloting math and English language arts.

"By continuing to move our students forward, we as a district are assisting them in achieving their maximum potential," he said.

Vance praised each of the schools in Loudon County.

Several of the system schools had double digit gains in achievement, showing not only the teacher's desire for a student to be college and career ready, but also the student's desire for growth academically, he said.

The district is conducting additional professional development with teachers to prepare them for implementing new, mandated standards. Vance said.

"There is certainly no time to rest in the field of education," he said.