Year in Review: Schools balance future goals with current priorities

Greg Drescher

Warren County Public Schools saw a year of new beginnings and the rehash of old issues in 2015.

Superintendent Greg Drescher began working for the schools in July, taking the place of Pamela McInnis. North River School Board member Roy Boyles’ seat went to Arnold Williams Jr. in April after his resignation. Donna McEathron was elected in November to take Joanne Cherefko’s South River seat when she retires in 2016.

After months of planning decisions and settling on shifting the name of Warren County Middle School, the district broke ground on the building in October. The building is expected to be finished for the start of the 2017-2018 school year, after which the existing middle school will be renamed Skyline Middle School.

“With this groundbreaking, we have reached the end of our capital improvement program with respect to new schools,” Supervisor Chairman Richard Traczyk said at the groundbreaking. “This middle school will satisfy the school system needs for quite a few years to come.”

Parents and faculty members began to voice their concerns over the conditions at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School to the School Board shortly after the 2015-2016 school year began. After reports of leaks, mold and faulty equipment, the schools conducted a spore survey that came to the conclusion that there was no mold problem at the school.

The School Board began organizing efforts for updates to the school’s HVAC systems, roof replacement and other repairs. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard said at a School Board meeting that designs for new parking at the school and a pitched roof at the entrance would come through in January 2016.

Looking into 2016, Warren County Public Schools have been working toward providing additional opportunities for high school students to learn career and technical skills. Blue Ridge Technical Center biomedical science students presented their first Project Lead the Way showcase of capstone projects in December.

Shenandoah University hosted a symposium for school faculty from around the area at its “Teaching, Learning and Poverty” conference, where Virginia Board of Education President Billy Cannaday led some portions of programming. There, attending administrators not only took part in discussing that set of challenges, they were also provided with tools to help them in their districts.

“What I’ve learned is that we now are beginning to have the conversation … around what it takes to really make certain that every child is seen as an asset as opposed to a problem that needs to be fixed,” Cannaday said at the symposium.

In November, the university broke ground for the Caruthers House, the first building in its new student housing project called The Village.

The university received a number of grant programs in 2016 to further its study programs. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded SU with funding for education on substance abuse treatment, the National Park Service awarded a grant for studies at the Shenandoah River Campus and organizations like Lilly Endowment Inc. and the Wabash Center awarded grants for new initiatives in religious learning.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com