The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Schools’ efforts draw attention
BY AMY FLOWERS UMBLE
Two Stafford County schools received good news Tuesday.
Garrisonville Elementary School in North Stafford qualified for a three-year waiver from annual accreditation.
And the Heather Empfield Day School received a national award for innovation in education.
Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright offered the waivers to 101 schools throughout the state.
Garrisonville Elementary was the only school in the Fredericksburg area to qualify.
School divisions have until July 1 to apply for the waiver, and Stafford County Superintendent Randy Bridges intends to meet that deadline.
Schools qualify for the waiver by earning pass rates of 95 percent or higher in the four content areas of the Standards of Learning tests for two consecutive years.
Garrisonville Elementary achieved those results by believing that every student can succeed, said Pam Kahle, assistant superintendent for elementary instruction in Stafford schools.
“They have a hardworking staff and very dedicated teachers,” said Kahle, who served as the school’s principal for 17 years. “They know their curriculum; they know their standards and, most importantly, they know their students.”
The three-year waivers are intended to allow schools flexibility in test preparations. Garrisonville Elementary would still administer the tests, and results would still be reported to parents and the state.
But the school would be accredited through the 2014–2015 school year, regardless of test scores.
That would give teachers some wiggle room as they introduce new state standards in English and science, said Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education.
Kahle expects the Garrisonville Elementary staff to come up with new ideas, but she doubts they’ll take advantage of the flexibility.
“Whether they have the waiver or not, their expectations will remain high,” she said.
In the southern part of the county, the Heather Empfield Day School received the National Association of Counties’ Achievement Award for “its successful and creative approach to addressing an educational issue in the community,” according to a county press release.
The day program at Drew Middle School began in 2009 as a way to address the growing number of students with autism in Stafford County schools. At the time, the school system sent more than 40 students to private, special-education schools outside of the county.
These schools could cost as much as $109,000 per student each year, plus transportation. The average annual cost per student at the Empfield school is $28,000, the press release said.
The Heather Empfield Day School provides specialized education for students with autism, intellectual disabilities and emotional disabilities.
Amy Flowers Umble: 540/735-1973