VALDOSTA -- Two Lowndes County Schools dropped off the state's "needs improvement" list, Superintendent Steve Smith announced at Tuesday's Board of Education work session.

Moulton-Branch and Clyattville elementary schools made adequate yearly progress for the last school year and were removed from the list. Lowndes Middle School remains on the list for the second year in a row, Smith said.

The state Department of Education released the its Adequate Yearly Progress report on Tuesday for Georgia's Title I schools, those with a large number of high poverty students based on those qualifying for free and reduced lunch. Schools on the list for a second year must either special assistance or allow students to transfer to other schools within the system. The system must bear the costs of transfers. The state has yet to determine what remedies will be required for what schools, according the DOE Web site.

Smith said Lowndes Middle showed improvement in every rated category except for special education students.

"They probably made more progress than any other school in the other areas," he said. "This just shows us the need to continue to work with our special education classes."

Still, Smith was pleased to see two schools meeting the stringent federal guidelines.

"I'm proud of our school system. When you have three schools on the list and you go to one, it shows good progress," he said.

The Board also unanimously approved a change to the system's dress code to allow Pre-K through 5th grade students to wear backless shoes. Flip-flops or "sandals fastened loosely to the foot by a thong between the toes" are still banned. Middle and high school students are already allowed to wear backless shoes, and Smith said he felt the policy should be consistent across grades. The system's dress code committee initially recommended against backless shoes for younger children due to safety concerns.

The Board declined, at Smith's suggestion, to further amend the dress code to allow younger students to wear shirts untucked. Smith said much of the administrative headache for middle school personnel was training students to tuck in shirts after not being required to do so in elementary schools. The shirt requirement for younger students is new this year. Previously, only middle and high school students were required to tuck in shirts.

The Board also directed Smith to make changes in the system's handbook to clarify that suspensions from school are considered excused absences and that in-school suspensions are not considered absences at all.

To contact reporter Bill Roberts, please call 244-3400, ext. 245.

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