Shawnee Public Schools begins its new school year Tuesday, Aug. 20, and with new teachers and friends come new upgrades and additions to the district.

According to SPS Public Information Officer Cherity Pennington, students and their families can expect several new developments this school year, including changes in staff, courses and facilities.

Dr. Teresa Wilkerson is the new Assistant Superintendent and former Horace Mann counselor Michelle Wallace is now serving the district as Career Development and Community Partnership Advisor.

"She will be working with the high school internship program and district ICAP initiatives, including expanding career interest lessons to our elementary students," Pennington said. "Several high school students will begin internships with area businesses and organizations this Fall."

Kim Paxson started her new position as principal of Sequoyah Elementary and kindergarten teacher at the Shawnee Early Childhood Center, Katie Thompson was named one of 12 finalist in the running to be Oklahoma's 2020 Teacher of the Year.

In addition, Pennington said many sites in the district have completed their construction projects and will have updated buildings.

"Jefferson Elementary is in final punch list stage of construction. The new offices and classrooms will be open when school starts," Pennington said.

Pennington said the Stucker facility in Shawnee High School is nearing completion. There will be a grand opening at the end of August or early in September.

"We're starting Phase 3 of construction at the high school with remaining projects. We are starting with security entrances and HVAC replacements," Pennington said.

The PIO also explained SPS hopes to add two new courses to the high school curriculum.

Two new courses are on the Monday, Aug. 5, school board agenda for the high school.

"The courses are Introduction to Robotics and Computer Science, a dual credit course that offers credit in science and computer science both and Introduction to Aerospace Engineering Principles, a drone and aerospace engineering course where students will learn to fly drones, design gliders, explore aerospace dynamics and even prepare for the FAA drone pilot certification test," Pennington said.

Pennington explained the Shawnee Board of Education will vote to add these new courses to the curriculum in their annual meeting Monday Aug. 5.

"If the board approves this latter course, Shawnee will be one of only a few schools in Oklahoma that have a drone program," Pennington said. "We (also) have plans to offer more robotics and coding opportunities to our elementary students this school year."

Pennington also said Team Clinics will be at every school site this year.

"As always, we are excited to see students and teachers back for a new school year," Pennington said.