Hen­rico school to be­come an academy

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - METRO - BY DEB­BIE TRUONG dtruong@times­dis­patch.com (804) 649-6734 Twit­ter: @deb­bi­etruong

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.



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