What‘s Happening at School Division News

graphic of hands holding plant

City and Schools promote energy and water conservation

water and energy management posterCharlottesville City Schools and the City’s Energy and Water Management Team are working together to reduce the energy and water footprint of all City schools. On April 11th, 2019 the School Board approved an Energy and Water Performance resolution, showing a commitment to achieving and maintaining high performing school facilities. 

Continuing on past efforts, the City’s maintenance and development teams are specifying high efficiency building equipment, such as high-efficiency chillers and LED lighting, and are enhancing operational control through advanced building automation systems. Charlottesville Schools and the City’s Energy and Water Management Team continue to investigate ways to accelerate the installation of high performance equipment throughout our schools.

The City is also working with each school to raise awareness about energy and water saving practices through education and outreach efforts that include distributing educational materials and providing tips and strategies that students and faculty can use to reduce the energy and water impact at our schools. 

Each quarter a different theme emphasizes aspects of energy and water efficiency/conservation. The 2019-2020 themes are:

  • Fall (September – November): The Value of Energy and Water
  • Winter (December – February): Understanding Our Energy and Water Use
  • Spring (March – May): Smart Energy and Water Use
  • Summer (June – August): Keep Going! Summertime Savings

Education around these themes is provided via posters and visual reminders displayed throughout schools as well as through announcements, newsletters, and social media. Teachers will be referencing materials periodically in the classroom, and parents are encouraged to continue these efforts at home. 

Have questions about this program? Contact the City’s Energy and Water Management Team at EnergyWaterTeam@charlottesville.org

Learn more about other green initiatives at Charlottesville City Schools here.

2019 Education and Outreach

Fall Quarter: The Value of Energy and Water

The energy and water that we use at home and in our school are typically provided using finite resources. In Virginia, fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) are used to produce over 60% of the electricity that we use, with nuclear and renewables making up the rest. We also use natural gas directly to heat our school and to heat our water. The water we use is pumped from reservoirs fed by rivers and is treated before coming to our homes and school as clean, potable water.  Simply put, our demand for electricity, natural gas, and water (the amount we use) has a direct impact on these resources. We have a responsibility to manage what we use but we’re also empowered with the ability to make lasting change.

In many cases we use more than we need, so we already have simple opportunities to reduce our impact. The best place to start is just becoming aware of when and how we use energy and water throughout our typical day. As you do your normal activities, think about how long you leave your lights on, leave your phone plugged in, and leave the water running. Now think about how you can adjust your behaviors to trim that up a bit.  It’s a game of inches, not miles, and small changes add up to big savings.

Fall Quarter Tips:

  • Last one out? Flip the switch!
  • Turn the water off when not in use.


flyer with cancelled stamp on it.

POSTPONED UNTIL SPRING: CHS to host Starry Knight with Astronomical Society

flyer with cancelled stamp on it.Event update: Science is messy, and weather is unpredictable! Sadly our CHS Starry Knight event is postponed until spring. We will be sure to announce the new date with plenty of time for you to get it on your calendar!

Join us for an evening of celestial wonder at the CHS Starry Knight telescope star party on Friday, November 22 from 7-8:30 p.m at the Curtis Elder Track and Field Complex at CHS. (The event had to be rescheduled due to cloudy weather.)

In partnership with the Charlottesville Astronomical Society, the CHS iSTEM team will share information about the wonders of space while participants engage in a variety of activities including stargazing through telescopes and making your own night-vision flashlights.

This event is free and open to all Charlottesville City Schools families.

November 2019 News and Highlights


A Word from Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins 

Poster at CHS Honoring First-Generation College Students among staff and studentsDear staff, family, and community:

Recently, CHS celebrated “I’m First Day,” a nation-wide initiative to support students who will be the first in their family to graduate from college. The event included hand-written notes of encouragement and a photo wall featuring CHS staff and students who were (or will be) first in their family. As a first-generation college student myself, I am proud that our schools prepare so many of our students to be trailblazers in this way, and I was touched to learn that so many of my colleagues on the staff are themselves first-generation college students. First-gen staff members like Dr. Eric Irizarry (CHS principal), Kim Powell (Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations), and Dr. Jesse Turner (Buford principal) have cleared a path, and they in turn can encourage our students to take those first bold steps toward college, career, or adulthood.

Williams family in front of Johnson historic marker.Speaking of trailblazers, in October we honored the families and students who desegregated Johnson School in 1962. The City and City Schools installed a historic marker and hosted a ceremony recognizing Eugene and Lorraine Williams along with the four black students who integrated the school. For photos, video, and more information about this powerful event, click here. And to learn how we are incorporating diverse and local voices into our history classes,please click here. As one small piece of this project, we have created an annual Trailblazers Day to tell our students about our own school history.

Together, let us blaze a new trail toward equity and excellence in our schools.

Dr. Rosa Atkins


Elementary School Activities

A glimpse into our elementary schools… 4th-graders attending a “sound engineering” concert at UVA… UVA President Jim Ryan reading to Johnson students… Jackson-Via students learning teamwork with string … Clark students testing water flow during an iSTEM activity.

TheatreCHS tech crew students shine a lightAt the Virginia Theatre Association’s high school festival, CHS earned the first-ever “Spirit of  Theater” award. The new award recognizes collaboration and positivity in the face of challenge. CHS won for its complex and well-received presentation of “Failure,” directed by senior Jack Heaphy. The one-act, which relied on technical effects, also won top technical honors. In addition, students earned awards in the Tech Olympics and for improvisation, and many seniors earned college call-backs and scholarships. Visit TheatreCHS on Facebook.

Draft calendar for 2020-21 school year.The draft academic calendar for the 2020-21 school year has been posted to our web site for community comment. The proposed calendar is nearly identical to this year’s. A joint committee from Cville Schools and ACPS will review the feedback and then present a recommendation to the School Board in December. After School Board consideration, a vote will be held in January. Click here for the draft calendar and a link to the survey.

CHS senior Dejua Lewis of Dejua's Creationz at Fifth Street StationThe Dejua behind “Dejua’s Creationz” at Fifth Street Station is a CHS senior who followed her mother’s footsteps to bring her dreams to life. When she’s not at CHS, Dejua Lewis offers desserts and smoothies in a space that she shares with her mother’s restaurant. The restaurant was recently featured on NBC29, and Dejua was also interviewed in the CHS Knightly News, where she told her classmates, if they “invest their time, love, and patience into their craft, they can be just as successful.”

Two bus drivers at a Cville Schools appreciation eventOctober brought National Bus Driver’s Week, and we honored those who transport our students safely between school and home each day. At an appreciation breakfast, we thanked our drivers for their part in Charlottesville City Schools’ mission– “Every Learner. Every Day. Everyone!” The City has openings for additional regular and substitute drivers. For more information, click here.

Matt Degan's social studies class at CHSEighth-graders in Dr. Venable’s math classes have been treated to several guest speakers who have reflected on their journey from young person to community leader. (In the photo at left, Mr. Marcus Carter, a counselor and athletic director at Fluvanna Middle School, is leading students in a teamwork exercise.) “Voices from the Village” is a similar program that offers speakers at CHS and Lugo-McGinness Academy.

CHS engineering student showing work to UVA engineersA new partnership with UVA Engineering’s Link Lab will connect high school engineers with graduate student mentors. The UVA students will guide CHS students in year-long, team projects like engineering of drones, windmills, oscillators and autonomous systems applications. The launch event included a group discussion, tour of the CHS Sigma Lab, and problem-solving sessions. To learn more, visit UVA Engineering on Facebook.

Cville Schools official logoIn October, the School Board approved new equity and anti-racism policies and heard an update about “Changing the Narrative,” which aims to include more diverse and local voices in social science classes. The Board also approved the calendar of budget development meetings. In other news, Juandiego Wade will receive the 2019 Paul Goodloe McIntire Citizenship Award. And the recent elections returned James Bryant, Dr. Sherry Kraft, and Jennifer McKeever and brought Lashundra Bryson Morsberger for a first term. Congratulations to all and thanks for your service. For School Board information, including agendas, minutes, and livestream video, read more here.

illustration of calendar11/13 Special Education Advisory Committee, Johnson, 5:30pm
11/15 Starry Knight Telescope Star Party (open to all Cville Schools families), 7-8:30pm, CHS Curtis Elder Track & Field Complex
11/18 CHS Band Fall Concert, 7pm
11/19 Buford Orchestra Fall Concert, 7:30pm

11/19 Lugo-McGinness Student/Family Celebration, 12pm
11/19 Parent University, 5-7:30pm, Jackson-Via Elementary (open to all)
11/27-29 Thanksgiving Break

12/2 Gifted Advisory Committee Meeting, 7-8:30pm, Division Annex Offices at CHS
12/4 CHS Orchestra Winter Concert, 7:30-9pm, MLKPAC
12/5 School Board Meeting, 5pm, CHS Media Center
12/5 Harvest of the Month Snack Program (thanks, City Schoolyard Garden)

12/6 City of Charlottesville Grand Illumination, begins at 4:30pm, Downtown Mall
12/10 All-City Band Winter Concert, 7pm, MLKPAC
12/11 Walker Orchestra Concert, 7pm, MLKPAC
12/12 CHS Holiday Pops Choir Concert, 7-8:30pm, MLKPAC
12/18 Walker Chorus Concert, 7-8pm, Walker Auditorium
12/19 Walker Stage Left Performance of Peter Pan, 6:30pm, Walker Auditorium
12/23-1/3 Winter Break (classes resume 1/6)

More Looks at Cville Schools

Fourth-graders dance during Minds in Motion

Minds in Motion: same great program, new season. Our partnership with the Richmond Ballet continued in a new format. Elementary schools hosted two-week intensive residencies, culminating in a fall performance. This year’s program was the “Journey of the Monarch,” combining dance with biology, plus teamwork, confidence, and fun. See more photos.

Walker student working with hip hop artist

Sixth graders enjoyed a hip hop writing workshop with Grammy-award winning artist Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. Students found courage to share their own original raps to professional background beats. The next day, students saw the artist perform at the Paramount. More info.

Class of 2022 CHS powderpuff football champs

The Class of 2022 is this year’s Powderpuff champions of Charlottesville High School! With the help of assistant Principal Rodney Redd, who also oversees athletics, the CHS Student Council revived this popular tradition two years ago. 

Find more info and events on on our website, social media, or our Google calendars!

Find us on the web at charlottesvilleschools.org

Draft calendar for 2019-20 school year. PDF is attached on this page. For details, call 245-2962.

Draft Calendar for 2020-21

Draft calendar for 2020-21 academic calendar. Call 245-2962 with questions.The Charlottesville-Albemarle School Calendar Committee has created a draft calendar for the 2020-21 school year.  The proposed calendar is nearly identical to this year’s.

Please take a minute to review the draft and share your thoughts with us.

A joint committee from Charlottesville Schools and Albemarle County Public Schools will review the feedback and then present a recommendation to the School Boards in December. After School Board consideration, a vote will be held in January.

Comments about the calendar:

  • Spring break: Our practice is to designate the first full week of April as our spring break. We are sometimes asked, Can’t you align spring break with U.Va.’s?   U.Va.’s spring break is typically near the beginning of March, which for K-12 students would make for a very long stretch without a break later in the spring. So while we recognize that this would be a good solution for U.Va. families, we feel that it doesn’t represent the interests of all our students and staff. A 2016 survey indicated that a majority of respondents favored keeping spring break during the first week of April.
  • Religious Holidays: Our practice is not to observe religious holidays as school holidays (but we do try to avoid scheduling evening events on major religious holidays). Students or staff who wish to be absent to observe a religious holiday are allowed to do so. For the 2020-21 school year, a professional learning day falls on Yom Kippur. This might be a benefit to Jewish families but might present a conflict for Jewish teachers and staff (who are welcome to take a personal day off but would miss the professional learning day). We welcome your input on this draft.
  • History about the calendar development: For over a decade, the Charlottesville and Albemarle County school divisions have worked together for a common calendar. A joint committee creates a draft calendar, and then we ask for input from students, teachers, administration, and parents. If necessary, the committee makes revisions to the draft before submitting a recommended calendar to the two school boards for approval.
Minds in Motion kids performing at MLK PAC

4th graders present annual Minds in Motion performance at MLK PAC

Minds in Motion kids performing at MLK PAC
Photo Credit: Aaron Eichorst

Our fourth graders amazed us this week with their Minds in Motion performances at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Performing Arts Center!

Through a unique partnership with Richmond Ballet, each year city fourth graders are introduced to creative expression and live performance through movement and dance at their schools. This year, Minds in Motion teaching artists from Richmond Ballet visited each elementary school for two-week residencies which culminated in two live performances of “Journey of the Monarch.”

More photos from the performances can be found on our Facebook page.

In addition, a video of the performance will be broadcast on Charlottesville’s public acess channel for education, Comcast Channel 14. It can also be found online using this link. 


Johnson plaque

City, City Schools install historic marker at Johnson Elementary School

Eugene Williams, wife, and daughters stand at newly-installed plaque at Johnson Elementary.
The Williams family, along with Mayor Nikuyah Walker, Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins, and School Board Chair Jennifer McKeever, observe the newly-installed historical marker at Johnson Elementary (from left: Eugene Williams, Lorraine Williams, Karol Williams, and Scheryl Williams Glanton).

On Wednesday, October 23, the City of Charlottesville and Charlottesville City Schools dedicated a new historic marker focused on the desegregation of Johnson Elementary School in October 1962.

Honoring the trailblazers who were part of the school’s desegregation, the City of Charlottesville and Charlottesville City Schools unveiled a new marker near the school’s entrance on Cherry Avenue, followed by a ceremony in the school auditorium,

Historical marker at Johnson Elementary
Standing in front of Johnson Elementary School on Cherry Avenue, the marker recognizes the third school in Charlottesville and Albemarle County to integrate after Massive Resistance.

The sign continues the story of Charlottesville City Schools’ desegregation as detailed on a historic marker in front of Venable Elementary School (with a duplicate sign near the Albemarle County Office Building, the former site of Lane High School). The original sign speaks to the initial desegregation of Venable and Lane in September 1959.

The new sign installed at Johnson School primarily addresses the period from 1959-1962, during which the City Schools minimized additional integration of the schools. Court cases led by the NAACP challenged discriminatory practices in the schools, and in 1962, the schools were compelled to expand desegregation, including allowing black students into all-white Johnson School. Johnson became the third public school in Charlottesville to integrate.

Williams family at plaque dedication.This effort was led in part by then-NAACP President Eugene Williams and his wife Lorraine, at that time a teacher in the City Schools. Their daughters, Karol and Scheryl, were among the 17 named plaintiffs seeking entrance to Johnson, Venable, or Lane. They, along with Michael Lewis and Rosalind Whitlock (whose parents had separately requested a transfer to Johnson), were the four to desegregate the school in 1962.

“The installation of this marker becomes another opportunity for community members, especially our school children, to learn the truth about Charlottesville’s history,” said the City’s Charlene Green of the Office of Human Rights. “We are telling more of those stories that have shaped Charlottesville’s narrative. It’s critical that we tell everyone’s story, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us.”

“We are pleased to honor these trailblazers — the parents and children of yesterday who have made gains and opportunities for all of us,” noted Charlottesville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins. “The best way for us to honor them is to continually open up doors and improve outcomes for all students.”

To view video of the event, visit C’ville Quick Takes: Desegregation Trailblazers from Charlottesville TV10 on Vimeo.

For more photos from the dedication ceremony, visit Facebook.com/cvilleschools.

Related Links



Clark students collaborating in a STEM activity.

News and Highlights: October 2019


A Word from Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins 

Two CHS graduates from the Class of 2019!Dear staff, family, and community:

As the end of the first quarter approaches on October 31, I hope the year has gotten off to a good start for you and your family.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019 and all those who helped them attain a school-high on-time graduation rate of 95.7 percent! Our black students’ rate was even higher — 95.9!  As CHS Principal Irizarry noted, “Even as we celebrate, we set new goals. As we continue to emphasize increased rigor and high expectations, we will expect to see more students pursuing the advanced diploma. But regardless of the type of diploma our students have earned, we celebrate this accomplishment and the good work our teachers, counselors, and staff are doing.”

Yes, we approach our schools with a combination of pride for what we’ve accomplished and a strong commitment to doing better. This fall, we have rolled out a wide array of commitments for improving our schools for everyone. You can learn more about these commitments by visiting charlottesvilleschools.org/equity.

Dr. Rosa Atkins

VA Secretary of Education Qarni visits CHS to talk about mental wellness.

VA Education Secretary Atif Qarni (center) spoke with CHS students to learn about the school’s pioneering mental wellness initiatives. From pre-K to high school, our schools have earned national attention for classroom-based social-emotional learning.  Click here for more.

Three Jackson-Via students enjoy a whole-class gifted activity.This fall, Charlottesville City Schools began an innovative model for gifted instruction. The new model is a collaboration between gifted resource teachers and classroom teachers, bringing the enriching activities of the gifted program to all students. These changes come after years of revising our old model and after months of soliciting feedback and consulting with experts. To learn more, find information on our web site or in the Daily Progress.

Fine arts students at Walker School.Walker students now choose not one, but two electives, selecting from art, band, choir, orchestra, pre-engineering, and Spanish. This has increased the enrollment and diversity of fine arts classes and helped students identify their own interests. Read more.

In other fine arts news, world-class violinist  Anyango Yarbo-Davenport visited Buford and CHS musicians, the CHS orchestra announced a tour to Lisbon & Madrid, the CHS choir raised more than $9,000 for hurricane-devastated Ocracoke Island, and CHS art students are contributing to a future mural in the City

ESL peer mentors at CHS.CHS has earned a national grant to support a peer-to-peer mentorship program. Newly-arrived immigrant and refugee students are matched with a mentor who has their same background and experiences, but who has been at CHS longer. “Having peers actually caring about them, reaching out, welcoming them… it just makes such a huge difference… You see them light up,” said ESL teacher Tina Vasquez. See NBC29’s coverage here.

Fourth-graders explore the Rivanna River at Camp Albemarle.Through visits to Camp Albemarle, field trips to Wildrock, time in our school gardens, and Farm-to-School Week activities, we are reaping nature’s wellness and educational benefits. Recently all schools earned (another) “Virginia Naturally” award for our efforts in sustainability and environmental learning. And the City’s Public Works staff is helping us save energy and water by providing educational materials for students and staff.

Matt Degan's social studies class at CHSTeachers are “changing the narrative” to include more diverse and local voices and history in social sciences. We are one of six school divisions included in a Virginia Humanities grant to train teachers and write new curriculum. “We want to be on the cutting edge of this work,” notes social sciences coordinator Neeley Minton. See NBC29 coverage.

The fall has also offered ways to explore our schools’ history. September marked the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Charlottesville Schools, and in October, a new historic marker at Johnson will explore the schools’ integration from 1959-1962.

Clark students collaborate in a STEM activity.Using hands-on activities related to everyday life such as changing leaves, water quality, and the heat retention of blankets, our STEM program is helping students understand the world around them. One real-life lesson? Failure is an important first step to learning and growing. To learn more about Cville Schools’ innovative and robust STEM programming, check out CCS_iSTEM on Twitter or attend a STEM Family Night at your school!

Cville Schools official logoRecent School Board activity includes a review of the division’s latest student data reports, an update about our 2019-20 equity commitments, and a first reading of proposed equity and anti-racism policies. (To review the drafts and provide feedback, click here.) Board members also voted to approve several documents to finalize their commitment to the new model for gifted education. For School Board information, including agendas, minutes, and livestream video, read more here.

illustration of calendar10/23 Dedication of Historic Marker at Johnson (call 245-2962 to learn more)
Buzz-by-Belmont Family 5K (open to all & sponsored by Clark PTO)
10/30 Minds in Motion, MLK PAC, 7pm
10/31 End of First Quarter
11/1-5 No School (Professional Learning and Teacher Workdays)
11/7 Harvest of the Month in all schools (thanks, City Schoolyard Garden!)
11/7 School Board Meeting, CHS Media Center, 5pm

11/11 CHS and Buford Bands Veterans Day Concert, 11am (CHS) and 2pm (Buford)
11/12 School Health Advisory Board Meeting, Division Annex at CHS, 4pm
11/12 Walker STEM Night, 6pm
11/13 Special Education Advisory Committee Meeting, Johnson, 5:30pm
11/18 CHS Band Fall Concert, 7pm
11/19 Buford Orchestra Fall Concert, 7:30pm

11/19 Lugo-McGinness Student/Family Celebration, 12pm
11/27-29 Thanksgiving Break

More Looks at Cville Schools

Burnley-Moran student learning to bike during recess.

Burnley-Moran students bike during recess. By partnering with the City’s Safe Routes to Schools program, all elementary schools have a biking unit during PE. This fall, Burnley-Moran instructional assistant Myk Reid worked with the City to provide bikes during recess. Said one second-grader, “This is obviously the best day of my life!” See more photos.

Dedication of Curtis Elder Track at CHS.

The CHS track & field facility was refurbished and rededicated to its namesake, legendary CHS track coach, Curtis Elder. When the school’s not using it, come enjoy our lovely track! More info.

Buford volleyball team has a record of 13-2!

Congrats to the Buford Volleyball team, with a 13-2 record so far! Fall sports are underway at CHS and Buford — thanks to the marching band, cheerleaders, and fans for their support! 

Find more info and events on on our website, social media, or our Google calendars!

Find us on the web at charlottesvilleschools.org

Two AVID CHS graduates

Charlottesville High School on-time graduation rate hits all-time high of 95.7 percent

Two AVID CHS graduatesCharlottesville High School’s on-time graduation rate rose again to 95.7 percent, continuing a rising trend that exceeds the state rate, yields one of the highest rates among Virginia cities, and sets a new school standard.

“We are so proud of our students and staff,” notes Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins. “This is no small accomplishment. It really demonstrates the value of creating systems of supports in our schools so that we are meeting students’ individual needs so that they can succeed.”

The school’s rate surpasses the state’s average of 91.5 percent and tops the state’s averages in most groups, including for black students. Charlottesville’s black students’ rate is 95.9, higher than the school’s overall graduation rate and exceeding the state’s average for black students (89.7) by 6.2 points.

Group shot of graduates Class of 2019Similarly, the division’s five-year graduation completion index rose to 96.4, which also is among the highest in the state.

The school’s drop-out rate fell to 1.8 percent, compared to the state average of 5.6 percent. Charlottesville’s black students’ drop-out rate fell to 1 percent.

The school’s percentage of students earning advanced diplomas was just below state averages overall (49.8 vs 51.5), and in certain groups, this difference was greater, For instance, the rate of attaining an advanced diploma for black students was 25.5 at CHS vs 35.5 across the state.

“A 96 percent graduation rate is something to celebrate,” adds CHS Principal Eric Irizarry. “And even as we celebrate, we set new goals. As we continue to emphasize increased rigor and high expectations, we will expect to see more students pursuing the advanced diploma. But regardless of the type of diploma our students have earned, we celebrate this accomplishment and the good work our teachers, counselors, and staff are doing.”

poster to advertise concert and silent auction

CHS Choirs hold benefit concert and silent auction for Ocracoke School hurricane relief

poster to advertise concert and silent auctionThe choirs of Charlottesville High School presented a benefit concert earlier this week, along with a silent auction to benefit the Ocracoke School of Hyde County, NC.

A small public school located on Ocracoke Island, NC, a remote barrier island in the Outer Banks, the Ocracoke School serves grades preK-12 and has been closed since Hurricane Dorian struck the area in early September.

“We feel an obligation to help others, whenever and however we can,” said CHS Choir Director Will Cooke. “The island of Ocracoke was devastated, and we have an opportunity to use our time and talents to make a difference for this school.”

The silent auction raised nearly $8,000 preceding the concert. The auction remains open through Friday, October 11, and donations will also be accepted.

All proceeds and donations will go directly to the Ocracoke School.

Please use this link to access the silent auction: https://www.32auctions.com/chsocracokeschool?fbclid=IwAR0Kmfoy9cexSRO99-WDt3Q8Waub_g0MbSIyUaFhBRZK-5ZI6_XUffWZJjA

photo of kids in Buford garden holding a chicken

CSYG and Buford Middle hold annual Fall Harvest Festival

Poster for 2019 Fall Harvest FestivalBuford Middle School and City Schoolyard Garden recently hosted the 10th anniversary of the annual Fall Harvest Festival to celebrate the school garden’s bountiful harvest and the people that make it happen.

“The Harvest Festival brings our community together to appreciate everything the garden brings—teamwork, leadership, exploration, discovery and, of course, the wonderful vegetables, herbs, and flowers that the students grow,” said CSYG Executive Director Jeanette Abi-Nader.

Open to all City of Charlottesville families, the Harvest Festival offered garden tours, face painting, scavenger hunts, a petting zoo, and a local artisan marketplace selling wares such as jewelry and homemade jam. Additionally, food vendors were on site, including the Charlottesville-Albemarle Technical Education Center (CATEC) food bus.

Since the garden at Buford was established in 2010, more than 260,000 youth interactions have been logged, providing a rich opportunity for learning year round. Meanwhile, the city schools now have nine gardens thanks to nearly $2.5 million in grants and individual donations, along with financial support from over 1000 businesses and school division funds.

photo of kids in Buford garden holding a chicken
Photo Credit: City Schoolyard Garden

“The evolution of our programming is a powerful testament to the role of the garden in the community and the identity of our school system,” said Abi-Nader. “Now we have urban gardening classes at CHS, Garden Aide classes at Buford, and regular outdoor learning opportunities at all six elementary schools.”

The gardens also provide cross-curricular learning such as ESL classes learning English vocabulary, science classes using the garden for lab experiments, and art classes painting gourds.

Eleventh-grader Manny Quezada began volunteering in the Buford garden when he was still in elementary school. He became a garden aide when he was in middle school, and he spent this past summer as a garden intern. Whether planting seeds, picking weeds, or harvesting his favorite green beans, Manny’s garden work has cultivated a love for the outdoors and appreciation for healthy foods.

“I had an option to work in the garden or go to PE class, and I chose the garden,” said Quezada. “It is rewarding to be able to enjoy the sunshine, relax, and see the results of my hard work.”

wide shot of Fall Harvest Festival banner
Photo credit: City Schoolyard Garden

The first Harvest Festival nearly a decade ago had 20 visitors, and now the festival attracts over 600 attendees. The free dinner traditionally features the winning dish of Buford’s Veggie Cookoff, a friendly competition among students who create dishes using a special ingredient. Last year, the special ingredient was eggplant, and the winner was eggplant meatballs and pasta. This year’s special ingredient was tomatoes.

The festival was the kick-off event for the 2019 Charlottesville Healthy Schools Week and VA Farm to School Week, October 7-11. During the week, students in all nine of the city schools will participate in special programming that includes garden activities, visits from farm animals, and made-from-scratch lunches made with local ingredients provided by area farmers through Local Food Hub.

Locally-sourced lunch menu offerings will include:

  • Monday: apples and pears
  • Tuesday: fresh salsa, apples and pears
  • Wednesday: Fresh herb baked chicken, yellow squash, tossed salad, apples and pears
  • Thursday: homemade vegetable soup, tossed salad
  • Friday: tossed salad, apples and pears