Hundreds of rising ninth graders paid their future high schools a visit last Monday during Ninth Grade Open House in preparation for the upcoming school year.

Students in the Class of 2017 had the opportunity to get their schedules, meet their teachers, and get acquainted with their new schools.

What exactly those ninth graders expect high school to be like varied.

Nathaniel Prescod, a rising ninth grader going into Salem High School, expects to have a great time in high school. "I think it's going to be fun. People say high school is the best four years of your life, and I expect it to be nothing less," he said.

Devonte Leader, another soon-to-be ninth grader at Salem, knows it isn't just all fun and games. "I think it's going to be a really fun experience," he said, "but I know it's going to be lots of hard work too. I've really got to get my game up and get my mind straight."

Students and teachers alike want to make the most of the upcoming school year and are using a variety of methods to ready themselves.

Heritage High School coordinate algebra teacher Josh James said he is getting ready for the school year by "preparing lesson plans, refining [his] teaching process and getting more familiar with the new curriculum."

Fellow HHS math teacher Kelly Elder says she is preparing for her classes by "working with other math teachers in the county to create lessons and activities that are sure to get students engaged."

One of the major changes to this year's ninth grade curriculum is that almost all ninth graders will be required to take a 90-minute math course every day instead of every other day.

This year, during the first semester, ninth grade students will take a full credit's worth of a pre-requisite math course, such as Pre-Algebra, whereas last year, ninth grade students would complete a half credit worth of Coordinate Algebra.

During the second semester, ninth grade students will complete a full credit of Coordinate Algebra, while tenth grade students will complete a full credit of Analytical Geometry.

The change will not affect graduation requirements.

The new math curriculum comes in response to extremely low pass rates on last year's Coordinate Algebra End of Course Test. Only 30 percent of students passed the exam, whereas 86 percent of those same students passed or exceeded on the math CRCT in eighth grade.

This led school system officials to the conclusion there is a disconnect between middle school math education standards and the skills necessary to succeed in high school math due to recent changes in math curriculum.

The goal of this new schedule of math instruction, according to a Rockdale County Public Schools statement, is to ensure students have the prerequisite skills necessary to succeed in high school mathematics.

RCPS Chief Academic Officer Leslie DeMarco said the program is also designed to "[allow] teachers to be more precise and proactive in diagnosing areas in need of support and [provide] appropriate instruction."