Henrico school to become an academy
An elementary school in Henrico County will become an academy that incorporates curriculum for students who are at risk of failure.
Highland Springs Elementary School, at 600 W. Pleasant St., will adopt the school model of An Achievable Dream Academy, starting in July. The framework includes longer school days, Saturday school and uniforms, as well as learning targeted at instilling students with “social” and “moral” skills.
The School Board unanimously voted to sign a five-year agreement with An Achievable Dream Certified Academies Inc. for the public-private partnership at a Thursday afternoon work session that took place in the county’s Board of Supervisors meeting room.
The meeting location was moved after an early morning fire damaged the New Bridge Learning Center on Nine Mile Road, where the board normally meets in the auditorium.
John W. Montgomery — the School Board member who represents the Varina District, where Highland Springs is located — said it’s his hope that the school division will pull practices from the academy into other parts of the district.
“This is a great opportunity … in an effort to address some students that are in some circumstances struggling but will certainly enhance their school experience,” he said. “It’s going to be a very exciting time.”
The Achievable Dream Academy will be the fourth in the state — there are two in Newport News, where the program was founded, and one in Virginia Beach.
An initial 285 students in kindergarten to second grade would start at Highland Springs, with plans to expand the program by one grade level each year. By the end of the fifth year, 570 students are anticipated to be a part of the academy.
The “ultimate objective” is to expand the program to include middle and high school students, according to the agreement, but that is not required under the approved agreement.
The school division will pay Achievable Dream in installments totaling about $2.7 million over the next five years for the program’s intellectual property, student uniforms and consultation, the agreement states.
The program is focused on encouraging appropriate behavior, increasing attendance, decreasing dropout rates and ultimately increasing the chance that students will grow into productive citizens.
School days at the academy will run about two hours longer than the typical elementary school day in Henrico. Up to 26 days also could be used for school on Saturday based on students’ academic needs, according to the agreement.
Highland Springs was chosen as the site for the academy after officials evaluated 13 schools that have struggled according to state and federal standards. Seven Henrico schools were denied state accreditation this academic year — a record for the county.
Highland Springs was partially accredited with warning by the Virginia Department of Education this year.
Parents of Highland Springs students who would like to opt children out of the academy can request a transfer to Fair Oaks Elementary School.
The School Board also approved two new positions — a director of operations and student enrichment coordinator — for the academy.
In other business, Beverly L. Cocke, the Brookland District representative, was unanimously elected as School Board chairwoman for the year. She served as vice chairwoman last year and replaces Three Chopt board member Micky Ogburn.
This will be the second time Cocke, who initially was elected to the School Board in 2011, has headed the panel. She also was chairwoman in 2013.
Roscoe D. Cooper III, of the Fairfield District, was unanimously voted vice chairman. He’s a firstterm School Board member who was elected to the post in 2015.
The elections were swiftly made and without public discussion — as with the county’s Board of Supervisors, the School Board functions on an unofficial understanding that chairpersons are elected on an alternating basis.