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Staff file photo / Catoosa County Public Schools Superintendent Denia Reese recently announced she will retire during the 2021-2022 school year.

Catoosa County Public Schools Superintendent Denia Reese has announced she will retire this school year after 16 years in the position.

"Working in this system and being superintendent of schools is the greatest gift I could have ever been given. I've never felt like I was coming to work, I've always just been going to school," Reese told the Times Free Press on Friday.

"I've loved every day of my career in this school system, and I appreciate the support I've received from this community; however, it is now time for me to shift my focus to enjoying time with my family. I want to thank the board of education for this amazing opportunity to lead Catoosa County Public Schools for the last 16 years."

(READ MORE: Catoosa County to give vaccinated employees $500, extra sick leave)

In a statement, the board wished Reese well in retirement and thanked her for the influence she has had on Catoosa County Public Schools and its students over the past decade and a half.

"The board acknowledges the many accomplishments, awards and excellence [Reese] has achieved in advancing our school system and the lives of thousands of school children," the board said. "Her service is commended and we wish her well in retirement."

Reese's final day as superintendent will be April 1, 2022.

Spokesperson Marissa Brower said the school district intends to recruit from within its current employee base through its Aspiring Leader Academy to fill the vacancy, rather than seeking candidates from outside the system. She said the district has been using the academy to promote employees and move them through the ranks for many years to great success and expects to be able to do so again. If unable to find a suitable internal candidate, she said, the district then will consider candidates from other school districts.

(READ MORE: North Georgia COVID-19 surge leads to substitute teacher shortage)

Internal candidates hoping to apply for the position can do so at catoosa.k12.ga.us from Oct. 1 through Oct. 18.

"The board wants to assure the public that it will be committed to finding a good match for a candidate who can work well to begin new opportunities for our students and staff, and who is committed to advancing important initiatives started during Mrs. Reese's tenure," Brower said.

Amid the upcoming changes to district leadership, students in Catoosa County Public Schools are preparing to return to school full time Monday after a three-week COVID-19 mitigation effort that began Aug. 30.

The district has said classrooms will be reconfigured as much as possible to face all desks in the same direction and provide more physical distance between students. Class transitions, dismissals and lunch times will be staggered to limit the number of students interacting at close distances in hallways and cafeterias. Hand sanitizing stations will be increased and available throughout each school, and visitors will be temporarily restricted.

(READ MORE: Catoosa County Public Schools moves to new 3-week COVID schedule)

"I appreciate your understanding during this temporary mitigation period. I think we all agree our children need to be in school for face-to-face instruction and interaction with their peers," Reese said. "The transmission of COVID is much different this year, but working together I am confident we can mitigate the spread and keep our schools open."

Contact Kelcey Caulder at kcaulder@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.

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