A Message from the Superintendent
Dear Staff and Families:
As we look ahead to Thanksgiving, I want to wish you a happy holiday and restful break. I am truly grateful for our students, staff, and community members who have helped us find success in online learning. Amid the challenges, we have much to celebrate and are in a good position with tech, internet access, meal delivery, talented and adaptable teachers, innovative mental health professionals, and so much more.
I’m also thankful for so many committee members who have been working diligently to help our schools find solutions and make plans. Our Covid Committee has made recommendations for returning to in-person learning, and our school safety and school names committees have also begun their work. Read on for updates.
Last night, the School Board voted to have staff continue planning for a possible return to in-person learning beginning in January and February. On December 16, the Board will meet again for a final review of health data and school plans, and they will make a decision on the plan at that point. Thanks to so many of you for completing our Family Intent Forms to guide our additional planning.
We’ll keep you posted as we continue to work out the details of what in-person and online learning would look like under this plan. Of course, we are also mindful of the worsening health data across the country and state. I’m so proud of Charlottesville for bucking this trend so far — and we have included some health recommendations from the local health department so that you can do your part to keep us safe as we enter the holiday season.
Dr. Rosa Atkins
Following the School Board’s decision to continue planning for an in-person learning option, the next phase of planning is already underway. This includes making scheduling and staffing decisions, as well as solidifying building safety protocols, food, and transportation plans. The Board will meeting again on December 16 at 4pm to review health data and schools’ plans before voting on the plan. Families can learn more as these plans develop at charlottesvilleschools.org/returntolearn.
Last year, Charlottesville City Schools and the City of Charlottesville held an event and installed a historic marker honoring the trailblazers who desegregated our schools at Venable Elementary, Lane High School, and Johnson Elementary School. You can watch highlights of the ceremony here.
During that event, Dr. Atkins pledged that the city schools will pause each November to learn and remember the courageous actions of these individuals. She noted, “The best way for us to honor them is to continually open up doors and improve outcomes for all students.” Throughout the month of November, students have been learning about these trailblazers through school projects, watching a book read-aloud by Charles “Alex-Zan” Alexander (Mr. Alex-Zan helped desegregate Venable) and activities like school-wide morning meetings.
In partnership with United Way of Greater Charlottesville and The Chris Long Foundation, Charlottesville Schools Office of Student and Family Engagement will host another Response to Essential Needs Drive Through event on December 12 at Charlottesville High School from 11am-1pm. The REN event will provide students and families in the community with necessity items such as hygiene products, coats, clothing, resources, and more. If you would like to donate items, collection boxes will be located at each school until December 4.
Join us for a division-wide Day of Play for city schools staff, students, and their families on December 5. We are working on a variety of play options for you to choose from, including dance, art, crafts, fitness, cooking, skateboarding, mindfulness, and more. These will be posted soon on Canvas. Participants who submit photos are eligible for raffle prizes valued at $2500! Special thanks to the Public Education Foundation for its generous support for this event. Stay tuned for more details!
Earlier this fall, Dr. Atkins appointed a number of superintendent committees to provide recommendations in three areas (COVID-19, school names, and school safety). The Covid Committee has presented its recommendations for in-person learning (see above). In addition, the School Names Committee has begun establishing a process for assuring that our school names reflect our current values. You can learn more or sign up to receive updates on the name committee’s work here.
Similarly, the School Safety/Security Resources Committee has begun meeting to map a path forward following the mutual decision for the schools and the Charlottesville Police Department to end the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding for School Resource Officers (SROs). As part of this work, we have been holding listening sessions to receive feedback from the community, staff, and students. You can learn more or sign up to receive updates on the safety committee’s work by visiting charlottesvilleschools.org/safety. Thanks to all our committee members!
Congratulations to our 2020-21 student School Board representatives: Jesaun Johnson, Madelyn Packer, and Adiba Khaydari. Dr. Eric Irizarry, CHS Principal, introduced the students to the School Board in November.
Our first-ever ninth grade School Board representative, freshman Jesaun Johnson served Buford Middle School last year as student body president and as a peer mentor. A state champion track athlete, senior Madelyn Packer is also a member of the National Honor Society and the National Latin and National Math Honor Societies. Senior Adiba Khaydari is the current SCA vice-president and serves as a Link Crew leader and member of the BACON Club.
The three students will each serve one trimester with Adiba serving first.
On Tuesday, December 8 at 7pm, Walker Upper Elementary School will host a virtual information session. This session is ideal for families of current fourth grade students who want information about Walker before our spring transition events.
During this December event, students and families can ask questions about the overall structure at Walker, special education services, and electives. For more information, please contact School Counselor John Kronstain (Mr. K) at 434-245-2906.
To attend the virtual session, use this Zoom link:
To send questions ahead of time: https://forms.gle/iAMLJV1aow1firAE6.
Coordinator of Physical Education and Health and Virtual Learning Jessica Brantley is the Virginia Association of Driver Education and Traffic Safety 2020 Teacher of the Year. Jessica wears many hats, including designing and implementing professional development for staff, leading virtual learning for the division, leading the School Health Advisory Board, writing/revising curriculum for physical education, health, and driver education courses, and serving as an engaging and highly effective teacher.
School Board Member Juandiego Wade is the recipient of the Virginia School Board Association 2020 Advocate for Education Award. This award recognizes school board members who have demonstrated significant and outstanding leadership, commitment, and contribution to public education that has had an impact on their region and the Commonwealth, and who have shown active involvement in local, state, and federal advocacy on behalf of their division, VSBA, and public education. Watch the video here.
CHS Senior Jamez Lynch was chosen from 50 applicants to present on his experience as a youth leader with Y Street, a student led organization that promotes healthy choices. “It was an honor to be able to represent Charlottesville City Public Schools and Y Street on a state-wide stage discussing ways to improve school wellness policies,” said Jamez.
Walker student Ellen Elias won first place in the VSBA Student Art Contest among elementary students in the central region. Her “Eye of the Tiger” has been hanging on a rotating basis in the local and state VSBA offices.
The Buford Middle School Math and Science departments held a water balloon battle of epic proportions to gain bragging rights on campus.Team Math included contenders such as The Denominator, The Equation Eater, and The Mathmagician, while Team Science leveraged The Mighty Chondria, Super XX, and E=MC Hammer. There were no winners on the battlefield that day, just a bunch of wet teachers! Watch the video here.
Our student artists have been especially creative this fall as our visual arts teachers continue to challenge them with projects that encourage students to express themselves through art. You can view the fall quarter art galleries by clicking on the Art Gallery tab at the top of each school homepage on our web site. Enjoy!
Following nearly two years of fundraising and planning, 545 Walker students voted to choose a design for the school’s new playground plans. After gathering more than 400 survey responses from students and community members and two live feedback sessions, Principal Dr. Adam Hastings presented students with two final designs to consider.
We are grateful for all of the community support and fundraising for this project, especially the leadership efforts of parent Christa Bennett and the Walker Buford United PTO.
And the winning playground design is…
The design by MTS Recreations includes two large running, climbing, hanging, and jumping stations, a track ride, one climber and spinner, one spinner, eight swings, and one 8′ slide.
At the November 19 School Board meeting, the Board endorsed continued planning for offering an option for in-person instruction beginning in January and February, as set forth by the superintendent’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee. The Board requested that the secondary schools continue to explore scheduling options. The Board also authorized the City’s Pupil Transportation Department to explore the possibility of contracting with a private service to meet the needs for student transportation.
NOTE: At their December 16 (4pm) work session, the Board will evaluate the latest health data and hear an update about the schools’ plans. At that point, they will make a final decision about in-person instruction plans.
Charlottesville City Schools Board member Juandiego Wade read the book “Up, Up, Up! It’s Apple Picking Time!” as part of Farm to School Week 2020. Thanks to our partners at Cultivate Charlottesville and City Schoolyard Garden for partnering with us during Farm to School Week and year-round! You can watch it here.