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September 3, 2013
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Editorial: New academic year puts students on mark to get set and go

Fall’s official start is still nearly three weeks away, but one of the season’s milestones is already up and rolling.

Most Douglas County students today joined the 50.1 million children and teens attending the nation’s public elementary and secondary schools this year. More students than ever before — about 35.3 million — will enter prekindergarten through eighth grade, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

That tally reflects a lot of plans, hopes and butterflies in stomachs.

For Oregon students, we’d like to see the 2013-14 academic year represent a fresh start as well.

Last November, the State Department of Education released the most recent figures on graduation rates. These showed that only 68.4 percent of Oregon’s class of 2012 earned diplomas. That was a slight increase from the previous year’s rate of 67.6 percent, which placed Oregon fourth from the bottom in U.S. rankings. Even Mississippi did better, reaching 75 percent. That’s not a distinction we can afford to maintain.

In Roseburg, about 165 first- and second-graders from six of the school district’s eight elementary schools got a chance to practice reading skills in August. The two-week Jumpstart program, which operates on federal funds, gave children a chance for one-on-one time with teachers and instructional aides. Here’s to reaping results that show the program lives up to its name.

Roseburg students who may be starting the school year on unsure footing are those affected by the closure of Rose Elementary School. After 109 years of lessons, the school shut its doors following the failure of a $6 million bond levy in May. Rose students will start this academic year in other schools, where other children may be affected by enrollment adjustments as well. We hope all pupils are as resilient as children generally are and come to love their new schools as much as the ones they’ve left behind.

Meanwhile, United Community Action Network will pay the school district $400 a month to rent Rose Elementary School for Head Start classes for 10 months. We’d like to see the agreement prove profitable to each party and help more youngsters on the path to school-readiness.

In Drain, the school year will start Wednesday on a mournful note as the community copes with the death of 16-year-old Austin Lundeen. The North Douglas High School sophomore and football team member was accidentally shot by a teammate Thursday night. The school postponed a home football and volleyball game and the start of the school year to allow time to grieve. It will take time for Drain-area families to rebound from one of the worst ways to open a school year. We wish them strength in the months ahead.

Throughout Douglas County, as in other parts of the state, students in every grade will carry on as school districts continue to deal with the realities of declining revenues. At the same time, educators are bracing for increased state requirements to earn a diploma.

On the threshold of a new school year, hopes are high and the challenges are numerous. It takes extra effort for students and parents to work with teachers and principals to excel despite the obstacles.

September’s new beginnings are the right time to launch that effort. There’s no reason for Oregon to lag academically behind Appalachia.

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The News-Review Updated Sep 3, 2013 11:18AM Published Sep 13, 2013 12:23PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.