HNGA Newsletter

Learn Daily | Lead Respectfully | Live Responsibly

Welcome Back, Students!

We are so excited to have students back in the building! While we were very pleased with the amount of work that was completed during Learn from Home, we are so thankful that we have returned to in-person learning so that we can see our students' smiling faces each day. We are also very excited to meet the many students who returned to in-person learning after completing the first semester as virtual students.

At HNGA, our vision is "to provide a positive, safe learning community, equipping and empowering students with skills necessary for graduation and post-secondary pursuits."

We want to provide a learning environment and school culture where students and parents are beating the doors down to get into the school. We believe that when a school is a fun, safe place to be, students will want to come everyday and be active participants in their education.

Studies show that a student's 9th-grade year is the best indicator of their graduation from high school. We know that "students who complete their freshmen year on track to graduate (no out of school suspensions and passing ELA & Math) are four times more likely to graduate than their off-track peers" (Johns Hopkins School of Education). We provide numerous interventions, activities, and supports with this in mind.

We hope that your student's freshman year is their best year of school ever! If you have any questions or feedback, please reach out to us. We truly do value your feedback.

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Safety Strong

Over the first half of the school year, we have done our best to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging face coverings and implementing social distancing, where possible. Our students and teachers are taking advantage of our outdoor classroom areas as the weather permits. Students are also doing a great job of following new safety procedures like directional hallway traffic, limited seating in the cafeteria, and scheduled handwashing and restroom breaks. For a refresher of some of the ways we are mitigating the spread of COVID-19, you can rewatch this video from last August.

By maintaining social distancing and limiting exposure (closer than 6 feet for more than 15 minutes) to those who may be positive for COVID-19, we will continue to be able to keep our staff and students healthy and in school.

As of Feb. 1, we do not have any active cases of COVID-19 among our students and staff. You can monitor our school's active cases by visiting our website. The number of active cases is updated each day by noon.

Finally, we appreciate the open communication we have had with parents and guardians during these unprecedented times. Together, we can continue to provide a safe school building and learning environment.

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How "Sweet" It Is to Work Hard

During the Learn from Home time in January, most of our students began the second semester of their freshmen year with new classes and courses they were unfamiliar with. Despite these challenges, the Class of 2024 worked hard to complete their assignments while juggling home responsibilities and technical obstacles. Our students' hard work set the tone so that this spring semester will still be successful.

As a small token of appreciation and as a reward for their hard work, our students were surprised with a sweet treat of either an Airhead or a Tootsie Pop. Students were challenged to continue to work hard with their eyes on being promoted to Habersham Central in the fall with all 8 credits earned. Even though we hope our students want to learn and do their assignments on their own, sometimes it is sweet to be rewarded for hard work.

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Habersham County's Anti-Racism and Non-Discrimination Statement

The mission of the Habersham County School System is “Success for ALL students”. In keeping with our mission, the Habersham County School System does not tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind by students or staff. All students deserve respect and have a right to a safe learning environment regardless of their race, religion, beliefs, gender or sexual orientation. Comments or actions which are discriminatory, racist, or otherwise degrading towards others are strictly prohibited in all Habersham County Schools and at all school sponsored events.

Any person who believes they have experienced racism or discrimination should report such actions or behaviors to a teacher, counselor or administrator. Every situation reported will be investigated and appropriate action taken.

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Staff Changes

Please help us welcome Mrs. Maddie Ash to the HNGA faculty. She is working with exceptional students in our math department.

Mrs. Ash earned her degree in Secondary English Education from Piedmont College. Prior to joining the HNGA family, Mrs. Ash worked at the Habersham Family Resource Center.

When Mrs. Ash is not at HNGA, you can find her spending time with her husband and three children, playing with her Great Dane and Shih Tzu, reading her favorite Stephen King novel, or relaxing on Navarre Beach. If you need to contact Mrs. Ash, you can email her at

Mrs. Candace Carver (who was previously known as Ms. Candace Loudermilk until her recent marriage) is now serving as the Head of the Special Education Department for HNGA. She will be working with our exceptional students as well as being a resource for the faculty within the special education department. Additionally, Mrs. Carver is a House Captain, organizes our House games and Raider Salute, which recognizes outstanding students each month. If you need to reach Mrs. Carver, you can email her at

Supporting Students through the Toughest of Times

Before COVID, who would have thought that in the year 2021 people would have to cover their faces in fear of transmitting or getting a virus, have to socially distance themselves from their closest friends and loved ones and force us to completely change our daily routines? The 2020-2021 school year has challenged us as educators. It has challenged us to change our approach on many fronts, including meeting the needs of our students. The pandemic has caused us to shift the areas we intervene in from material items to now focusing on mental health. While we are still focused on helping students meet their educational goals, we are also very aware that students need to learn more about how to cope, process and overcome the many curveballs 2020 has thrown. Students and their families are coping with a lot of changes. Many have experienced the loss of employment, loved ones, friends, or health, and many have a general uncertainty of what the future will bring. It’s a lot, a lot for anyone to handle, especially a teenager just transitioning to high school. To combat this, we’ve encouraged students to continue maintaining relationships through various formats, whether online or in person, engage in therapeutic activity, and simply take a moment to breathe. If parents have concerns, they should reach out to a counselor, therapist, clergy or school.

This school year is unlike any other. We have had to start the semester virtually, wear masks while teaching and physically distance ourselves. We have had to reinvent the wheel when it comes to educating and supporting students. We have also had to search for new methods to reach our students in the classroom and beyond.

In the past, we supported students by meeting with them in-person individually or in groups and discussed how to improve their educational foundation, their overall affect or their postsecondary plans. This year it’s different, very different. We have had to expand our knowledge and develop different strategies. At HNGA we pride ourselves on educating the whole student. If students are focused on issues beyond the classroom, we know that they will not reach their full potential in the classroom.

For our students in the building, we still meet with them and focus on developing relationships the best we can from a distance. All of our students meet daily with their homeroom where they not only checkout their Chromebook, but all get to develop a yearlong relationship with a small group of students and their homeroom teacher. Within that same homeroom, we provide opportunities for our students to connect with the peers safely via virtual House meetings where they work together as a team to compete in a series of virtual competitions. We also recognize that many students may need a little support emotionally and otherwise and have a school counselor ready to help them navigate their needs.

While our virtual students may not be in the building, we are determined to support them just as much as our in-person students. We recognize how isolating virtual learning can be and are implored to make that connection with them. All of our teachers provide live lessons virtually where students not only learn about the standards, but are also able to connect with the teacher via Zoom or Google Hangout and learn about their teachers and peers. Our counselor is also available to meet with them through online formats or in the building, if they so choose.

On either front, if we find that students may be falling behind, we first attempt to reach the parent/guardian through the phone and speak with them about how we can better support the student. If we are unable to reach anyone, our counselor and School Resource Officer visit the home and attempt to meet with the family to discuss support strategies, motivate the student and remove barriers. Finally, we are more than happy to meet with families and discuss how we can help meet their needs which can result in involvement of our Social Worker, Mental Health Specialist, School Nurse or School Counselor.

In addition to focusing on facilitating relationships and supporting students and families, we have encouraged self-care, not only for the children, but also for the adults. We encourage everyone to find time to have fun, bond with others through activities, get outdoors and engage in loved activities. We realize that with this COVID school year comes many more opportunities for stress. We hope that the support we provide for our students and community ease the burden on families and lay the foundation for an amazing school year.

Written by Mrs. Andrea Hutchins, School Counselor

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Team Building

One of the most important aspects of our school culture is the bond and unity of our HNGA family. Even though we have been challenged to come up with new ideas to develop these relationships during COVID, we have continued to find safe ways for our staff to laugh and have fun with each other. We have found that the old adage is true; "Laughter is good for the soul".

During the Learn from Home time, we used our lunch break to play socially distanced games such as trivia, Minute to Win It, a scavenger hunt, and more. The winners of these games earned prizes such as a free lunch or a sweet treat.

These seemingly simple games helped to reunite our school family during a time where it is so easy to be negative and divided. We hope that our teachers continue to make learning fun and encourage laughter so that we do not lose our culture and identity during these challenging times.

Technology for the Win

The 2020-2021 school year has already been one for the records in the area of school technology. The Covid-19 pandemic forced our educational system to rely heavily on technology. Our school rose to the challenge and has embraced technology like never before. Chromebooks, google apps, video conferencing, and USB jump drives have become part of our everyday education. Habersham County schools moved to a 1:1 Chromebook initiative this year which means there are enough chromebooks in our school to assign each student with their own. So far, our freshmen have been very responsible in taking care of their school assigned chromebooks. In addition to providing chromebooks to all students, our parking lot now offers free wifi access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week if anyone in the community needs Internet access. For students still struggling to have technology at home, we can custom make USB jump drives to use in conjunction with chromebooks at home without the Internet.

Virtual students and in-person students alike are learning to use technology more proficiently. Teachers and students are using google apps every day as part of their learning. On any given day a student may use a wide variety of online resources such as Google Classroom, Slides, Docs, Meets, Forms, Gmail, Connexus, Kahoot, and Zoom. Teachers have trained on many of these resources and continue to collaborate with each other. Many of our teachers are juggling being a virtual teacher and in-person teacher at the same time. Technology has allowed our school to continue the tradition of house battles through google meets. Our homerooms can be joined up virtually to keep our students safe but still offer the fun opportunity of playing games and building comradery. Video conferencing has also been utilized for faculty meetings, parent meetings, and to teach live lessons to virtual students. Before Covid-19, we would not have embraced technology like we do today. Although it is not perfect, technology has provided a way for us to effectively communicate and educate.

Written by Mrs. Stephanie Shubert, Media Specialist (pictured left with Mrs. Lori Segers, Media Clerk)

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Keeping Students on Track for Graduation

Even in the best of times, a student’s freshman year of high school can be extremely challenging. And these are not the best of times. COVID-19 disruptions have turned an already difficult year of transitioning to high school into an even more stressful and uncertain time in our students’ lives. In fact, COVID has required us to create a new normal at HNGA.

To help our students and families better navigate these new challenges, it has become very important for us to offer clear and easily accessible supports and resources for our students. Our focus for our HNGA students is to prepare them to remain on track for graduation as they transfer to Habersham Central in the fall. According to research, students who complete their freshmen year on-track for graduation (earning 5 or more credits during their 9th grade year) are four times more likely to graduate than their off-track peers. So, despite school delays, quarantines, and students learning virtually, our freshmen students must continue learning in order to be prepared for their sophomore year and remain on track for graduation.

Our HNGA faculty is known for balancing high expectations and grace when needed. More than ever, maintaining a balance between high expectations and compassion is required. This is the hardest school year many of our students have ever experienced. Flexibility has become the order of the day, but that doesn’t mean abandoning high expectations. The worst thing we can do is lower our standards for students. Whether it is differentiating content, adjusting how the content is delivered, or providing multiple ways to assess our students’ mastery of standards, our faculty is constantly looking for ways to ensure our students’ success. In addition, providing technical support is constantly at the forefront of our plans, especially for our virtual students, quarantined students, as well as during the recent Learn from Home period in January. Serving our students with additional needs such as students with disabilities and English language learners during the pandemic is of paramount importance.

Despite the uncertainties COVID-19 has brought, Habersham Ninth Grade Academy remains fully committed to continuing to do whatever it takes to implement strategies and provide resources our students need in order to be on track for graduation and to accomplish our school system’s mission of Success for All Students.

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Putting the “Home” in Homeroom

Upon returning to school in September, there was one common goal here at NGA: safety for our students. However, just as essential as safety was the need to establish a positive rapport and to build a community with our students who have undoubtedly felt isolated during the pandemic. One major way we’ve been able to establish this sense of family is through morning and afternoon homeroom meetings. Students now start and end the day with a teacher and group of peers that are familiar to them.

Homeroom has become a central hub of support and community for students, creating the feeling of a home at school. We’ve been able to participate in community building activities that have helped strengthen these bonds. Such activities have consisted of a door decorating contest hosted by Student Council, themed dress up days during Homecoming Spirit Week, and Homeroom Games on Fridays.

There’s no denying that the pandemic has negatively impacted students, but by creating time during each day for students to socialize and compete in friendly competitions and games, we’ve been able to build relationships and positive rapport with students.

What the students are saying:

“I enjoy having a place to return to every day that makes me happy.” -Madison T.

“I like being able to do things for my teachers during homeroom.” -Savannah P.

“It’s fun seeing people that I don’t normally have classes with.” -Brice W.

Written by Mrs. Terra Ward, 9th-Grade Literature

Chick-Fil-A Fundraiser at HNGA

We have an awesome opportunity for students to participate in. On Friday, February 12th, students will have the chance to enjoy Chick-Fil-A for lunch. The lunch is a box that includes either an 8-count nugget box or a chicken sandwich, chips, a delicious chocolate chip cookie, and a bottle of water. The cost is $8.00, which covers the meal plus delivery.

Homeroom teachers will be taking orders from now until Tuesday, February 9th. Late orders cannot be accepted. All proceeds will be used for student incentives, House prizes, etc.

About Us

Habersham Ninth Grade Academy will provide a positive, safe learning community, equipping and empowering students with skills necessary for graduation and post-secondary pursuits.
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