MANAHAWKIN – It’s September and kids are back to school. The Southern Regional School District was well prepared for the start of the new semester, making changes and upgrades.
One of the most notable updates that students will see is a newly renovated auditorium in the 9/10 section of the high school.
Superintendent Craig Henry told Jersey Shore Online that this renovation was “long overdue.” The auditorium, prior to upgrades, was in its original state since it was built 50-60 years ago, he said.
The upgrades were both infrastructural and technological, replacing the acoustics, seats, flooring, stage, and sound system. Henry noted that the auditorium was on its last legs, calling its interior “antiquated and obsolete.”
The total project was completed on schedule and came in under the $2.5 million budget, which was designated for the auditorium revamp in the district’s five year capital plan, according to Henry.
Now, Henry said the district is proud to provide a new space “that is up to the standards that our performing arts students deserve.”
In addition to this upgrade, the district has exchanged two school security guards for the addition of four Class III Officers.
This change has been in talks over the past school year, said Henry.
Former Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill in 2016 that made it legal for schools to hire specially trained, retired Class III officers to provide safety in schools. With this legislation passed, Southern went ahead with the process.
Two full-time security guards have recently retired from the district, leaving the schools with a full security force of part-time guards, Henry explained. With the two FT security guards retired, Southern repurposed that revenue to afford the four Class III officers.
These new officers are retired, all hailing from local departments in within Southern’s radius: two from Stafford Police, one from Long Beach Township Police, and one from Beach Haven Police. Henry added that these officers were the ideal choice as former Southern Regional graduates themselves, having personal connections to the district.
“They are all vested in the Southern community,” he said.
On the academic side of things, SRHS recently expanded their curriculum to include a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. The STEM program will feature one teacher who will instruct five sections.
These classes will be elective courses, not mandatory, available to students who are interested in the subjects.
Henry explained that the idea for implementing STEM courses came out of notable graduate patterns. Many of Southern’s high school graduates have gone on to study engineering-related subjects in college, so school administrators deemed it beneficial to include these topics into the high school curriculum to give students a head start.
The classes will be comprised of two computer programming classes, one engineering class, and one computer design class.
Henry noted that, if the STEM classes yield a good response, they hope to expand it to 10 sections for the 2019-20 school year.