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Enrollment down, scores up in schools

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Director of Tipton County Schools Dr. Buddy Bibb spoke at the Tipton County Legislature meeting Monday night about enrollment, school security and the progress of a safe room at Atoka Elementary School.
Bibb told the county commissioners that bids for the construction of a safe room at AES will go out at the end of January. The room would be used for a natural disaster or other emergency situation.
Construction is expected to take a year.
Bibb also announced that access to the county's schools has changed. Visitors now must hit a buzzer and show identification before being allowed to enter.
All schools have the new system except for Brighton High School and Brighton Middle School. Those two schools are expected to have the new system soon.
“We feel like this is a very good way to strengthen the security of our buildings,” Bibb said.
He also announced that current enrollment in the school system is 11,584, down 109 from the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Tipton County Executive Jeff Huffman asked why enrollment was down.
“The home school movement is picking up,” Bibb said. “The state legislature has relaxed the qualifications for home schooling.”
Concerning academics, Bibb announced that all three high school received federal bronze awards and the system as a whole improved over last year and beat the state average in 14 of 16 categories. Graduation rates and ACT scores were also well above the state average.  
In other matters:
• Shawn Anderson, the county's GIS director, gave a report on progress made during 2013.
He said the county's new and improved website (tiptonco.com) is expected to go live next month. It includes several upgrades, including more compatibility with mobile devices.
There were 637,548 page views last year and 28 percent of the traffic on the site in the third quarter for 2013 came from mobile devices.
“The old site was not viewed very easily on mobile devices,” Anderson said. “It will be a lot better on the new site.”
Improvements that came last year include a redesign of the county's GIS mapping website, a light detection and ranging system, a free map book on line and a $40,000 grant that paid for six software licenses, three large format plotters, a GPS unit sub meter and GPS vehicle tracking for Poplar Grove Utilities.
• Huffman reminded everyone that state-mandate property reappraisals are going out this year for the first time in six years.
“It looks like, generally speaking, residential (value) is down and farm land is way up,” Huffman said. “We'll just have to see how that lands as far as the entire tax base.”
He said the county's property value is over $3 billion for the first time.

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