With the first day of school now officially less than a week away, area districts are wrapping up final summer projects and prepping buildings and classrooms for the upcoming year.

The first day of school for Owensboro Public Schools, Daviess County Public Schools and Owensboro Catholic Schools will be Wednesday.

Owensboro Catholic Schools welcomed Jo Ann Mathieson as the new assistant superintendent this summer since David Kessler officially moved in the role of superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Owensboro.

Other than that change, Kessler said the district has only undergone routine changes throughout the summer. He said there were no major construction projects, but the high school's theology department underwent a few upgrades.

"We did some painting and flooring and those kinds of things there," he said, adding that there were also some ceiling repairs, along with a new heating and air unit installed at Owensboro Catholic Middle School.

He said this summer has been "business as usual" as far as having educators and staff preparing buildings and classrooms for kids to arrive next week.

All of the educators across the entire Diocese met last Friday to have a Celebration of Catholic Schools Day, he said, where they spent some time collaborating, heard from a guest speaker and attended Mass together.

"That kicks off the year, once you get everybody together for that," he said. "Now they are all in their individual buildings they have started their own professional development."

He said most of the schools are having open houses this week and early next week where students and families can meet with teachers.

"We are very excited to get the school year going," he said. "I think we have a great staff and I think it's going to be a good year. I'm excited to get it started."

Owensboro Public Schools spokesman Jared Revlett said staff members and educators are wrapping up their typical back-to-school trainings this week before doors open for students Wednesday. He said the district's central office has been "packed every day" for the past two weeks as employees undergo required and state-mandated professional development.

In particular, he said members of each OPS school's safety committees have been training on the district's new CrisisGo app, which will officially be unveiled during the district's opening day ceremonies Tuesday for district employees at Owensboro High School.

"(CrisisGo) streamlines the communication for any type of school crisis," Revlett said, citing active shooters or weather events as what could be defined as a crisis.

The app allows for teachers to communicate directly with other teachers, members of their safety committees or emergency personnel if something goes awry during the course of their school day. The app also allows them to take attendance, so in the event students are separated from their classes, emergency personnel will have access to that student data if needed.

"(Teachers) also can run all their state-mandated drills through it, and it keeps a record of that so we can turn that into the state," Revlett said. "It's a really cool app that we can bring everybody to speed on on opening day."

Aside from that, he said officials, educators and staff members across OPS are gearing up for students in classrooms.

"We are embarking on a lot of new journeys this school year, with the new middle school and new Emerson Academy," he said. "A lot of good things going on in our district and we are set up for a great school year."

Daviess County Public Schools are "humming with excitement" for the new school year, according to district spokeswoman Lora Wimsatt, with staff members in all roles prepping for opening day. Throughout the summer DCPS employees have also been going through professional development.

"Professional development is taking place for teachers, lunchroom managers, bus drivers and others as part of our commitment to providing the best instruction and services for our children and families," Wimsatt said. "Schools are hosting orientations and back-to-school events to ensure a smooth transition for students as the summer draws to a close."

She said the most visible changes that have taken place over the summer break are the new athletic facility at Apollo High School and the renovation to the existing athletic facility at Daviess County High School.

Apollo's stadium is scheduled to be completed this fall, with the district hopeful to be able to play the last home football gave in the stadium Oct. 25. Reid Stadium is expected to be completed by the first game of the year, with the track finished in early August, and stadium being in full use by Aug. 30.

"In addition, extensive renovations are taking place at Apollo High School with a goal of enhancing the learning environment for our Eagle family," she said.

The district continues to put kids first in everything it does, Wimsatt said, with this year beginning with a challenge to one another to "Rise Up - Be the One!", which is also the theme for the district's opening day ceremonies that take place Aug. 6 at the Owensboro Sportscenter, at which time district employees will meet for a pep rally.

"This is a reminder that we all have the potential to make a positive difference in the lives of the students we serve," Wimsatt said.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315.

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