BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Many school districts across the state, including Jefferson County Schools, are welcoming students back for the new school year this morning.

At Minor Community School, principal and teachers were all hands on deck preparing first day fun for their students.

Teachers in the arts-integrated school put finishing touches on their rooms and all the hall decorations. It’s an effort to provide an environment their students can grow academically, socially and emotionally.

There’s even a big pep rally planned for students with special community guests attending to cheer them on as they kick off the new school year.

“We choose to do this because students need motivation,” said Dr. Mark Nixon, Minor Community School Principal. “And we feel like their first day after a long summer, they need something to kind of get them motivated and pepped up about coming back to school. So, we want to start showing how excited we are that school is about to start and hopefully that same excitement will trickle into them as well.”

However, schools nationwide are experiencing staff shortages. Superintendent Dr. Walter Gonsoulin said faculty and staff shortages are a real issue even in Jefferson County Schools.

He added they still have several openings for key positions like bus drivers and special education teachers, but also noted there’s no cause for concern because there are no more positions open than normal.

Schools like Minor Community School have a couple openings in their ‘Ex-Ed.’ department, while Hueytown High School said they are good to go.

“Here at my school, we’re all fully staffed,” said Principal Ryan Howard. “I try to be proactive in how I go about it. I start early when we know we’ve got non-renewals or whatever coming in. I try to keep an open communication with teachers letting me know if they are retiring and things of that nature.”

Superintendent Gonsoulin said he’s confident their school system is ready for when that first bell rings this morning.

Fultondale High School is the only exception in Jefferson County. The new school will not open its doors with the rest of the county today. Its students will start the school year with E-learning days at home.

The school system built an entirely new building after the high school was damaged in a 2021 tornado.

Superintendent Gonsoulin said they had full intentions to open for the first day of school, but there are still preparations and a few minor items that must be completed first.

Looking to the future he says the old Fultondale High School location will serve as something called the JCIB

“The Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School,” said Superintendent Gonsoulin. “It’s going to house grades 6 through 12 with some of our best and brightest children and it’s going to take us about two and a half years to complete that project.”

Dr. Gonsoulin said Fultondale High School’s students can expect to have their first day inside the new building on Monday.