Here Comes School

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Divisions Ready Initiatives

Local school administrators and teachers are seeking to “empower the future” in the 2019-20 school year – which starts in all three divisions this coming Monday.

T-shirts with that very slogan were passed out by staff at the Buena Vista City Public Schools convocation ceremony this past Monday, in celebration of what educators are seeking to do for students in the new year.

Superintendent Dr. John Keeler described the empowerment of students as all-encompassing, welcoming a “culture of persistence” that has developed in the division.

In the coming school year, Buena Vista educators plan to expand upon their successes in instruction that have resulted in academic achievement.

At the end of last school year, standardized test scores in mathematics experienced a 14-point increase at the middle school level and a 25-point increase at the high school level. The Virginia Board of Education went on to recognize the division with its Continuous Improvement Award for its outstanding progress in student performance. The goal of BVCPS teachers this year is to further improve math test scores, as well as improve literacy and reading standardized test scores.

Buena Vista’s empowerment of students also occurs outside of academics, where many in the BVCPS community make an effort to improve the division’s learning environment. The division kicked off the back-to-school season with a backpack and book giveaway, offering a year’s worth of school supplies to kindergarten through seventh grade students. The Blues Education Foundation, organizer of the book drive, donated 350 books to local children in an effort to promote literacy.

“We are not to stop now,” Keeler encouraged. “Our students need us.”

In his convocation address, Keeler shared an anecdote of Buena Vista schools’ history of success dating back to 1914. That year, two Parry McCluer High School students won the first-ever Virginia High School League championship in a debate competition.

Keeler announced BVCPS will be erecting a new sign in the downtown area, reading “Welcome to Buena Vista, Home of the first VHSL State Champions, April 1914,” to celebrate their tradition of hard work and achievement.

Last year, he noted, Buena Vista saw five straight VHSL championships in athletics.

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As in Buena Vista, teachers went back to school in Rockbridge County Monday.

Administrators and teachers there are making strides this school year to ensure their academic environment is comprehensive, current and up to standard.

Project-based learning is a “huge initiative” throughout the division this year, explained Superintendent Dr. Phillip Thompson. Administrators and teachers introduced project-based learning at various grade levels in the past year in preparation for a major divisionwide shift in education.

The implementation of project-based learning throughout grade levels K-12 in the 2019-20 school year will encourage students to develop skills the Virginia Department of Education identifies as the “5 C’s”: critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and leadership, and character.

In keeping with the development of well-rounded students, career investigation is a divisionwide goal for Rockbridge.

“The School Board believes very strongly in career and technical development,” Thompson said.

Rockbridge will be placing focus on career technical education programs, not only at the high school level, to make trade education “hands-on and available” to students who are interested.

CTE programs will also be “aligned with 21st century job opportunities,” Thompson explained.

Rockbridge County High School recently received a $50,000 innovation grant from the Virginia Department of Education for its Solutions STEM Academy. The Solutions STEM academy will offer three pathways to career and job readiness in energy and power, agricultural and environmental management, and advanced technology applications.

Ultimately, the implementation of this grant-funded opportunity will culminate RCPS’ project-based learning and CTE initiative to produce project-based assessments focusing on renewable energy for wind and solar, agricultural advancements, environmental science, and cybersecurity and drone designs.

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Lexington City Schools are also gearing up for the 2019-20 school year with relevant education initiatives led by strong administrative goals.

At the Lexington City Schools’ convocation Monday, teachers participated in professional development sessions that expanded on cultivating the Virginia Department of Education’s “5 C’s,” discussing and adapting to recent changes in educational assessments, as well as implementing a literacy framework called “The Daily 5” that instills behaviors of independence in students, creates a classroom of highly engaged readers, writers, and learners, and provides teachers with the time and structure to meet diverse student needs.

Dr. Abbott Keesee will be leading Lylburn Downing Middle School as principal following former Principal Jason White stepping into the new role of Lexington City Schools director of operations and student services. In this administrative role, White has worked to research and plan a new, comprehensive school safety protocol. This school year will see the implementation of ALICE training for teachers and students in Lexington schools with assistance from the Lexington Police Department.

The adoption of ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training is meant to support a healthy learning environment with school safety that is progressive and efficient. With Lexington students and teachers participating in ALICE training this school year, all three school divisions in the area will have adopted the safety strategy that is highly supported by law enforcement.