Shenandoah County officials tour southern campus schools

Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Johnston accompanies North Fork Middle School music student Liam Ring, 12, of New Market, as they play the trumpet during class on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

QUICKSBURG – Members of the Shenandoah County School Board and the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday visited the schools in the southern campus.

They heard about how school administrators at those schools are welcoming and preparing for the possibility of a transition of grades.

The administration would like to reconfigure grade levels for Ashby Lee Elementary School, North Fork Middle School, and Stonewall Jackson High School.

Superintendent Mark Johnston, as a way to plan for next year, is proposing moving Ashby Lee’s fifth-grade class to North Fork Middle School and North Fork’s eighth-grade class to Stonewall Jackson High School. This will make Ashby Lee a pre-K to fourth-grade school, North Fork a grade five to seven school and Stonewall Jackson a grade eight to 12 school, which it was previously.

Ashby Lee Principal Stephen Povlish said real estate has always been a prime issue for them.

Triplett Tech culinary arts student D.J. Detwiller, 17, mixes a cheesecake during class as he chats with District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris during a tour on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

The school was unexpectedly impacted by more than 50 new arrivals to the division, pushing its total enrollment to 802 students. The transfer of the class would drop Ashby Lee enrollment to a projected 654 students next school year. Stonewall Jackson anticipates enrolling 616 students next year.

“To have a handful of classrooms would mean the world,” Povlish said.

He talked about the scramble to find space for visiting staff or members of the Department of Social Services to use when they are in the building.

The school this year had to set up its technology classroom in a hallway using noise-deadening room dividers.

Every bit of space in the school is used, including highjacking janitorial supply space to hold library books.

Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark A. Johston, left, and Linda Hodges, supervisor of human resources, look over a pool of tilapia fish with School Board members Rick Koontz, and Karen Whetzel during a tour of the North Fork Elementary's agriculture class on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Stonewall Jackson Principal Mike Dorman said most of the incoming eighth-grade classes would be contained in  rooms in the science wing, creating a school within a school, but a few would be mixed into other areas of the school.

The grades would mix more in elective classes, he said, adding, “This allows them to transition easier.”

Public meetings on the proposed change are scheduled for March 13 and March 14.

A tour of the North Fork Middle School found Johnston playing trombone with students performing a musical piece called “Inception.”

Band Director Wendy Whitford jokingly gave Johnston an A-minus, saying he started playing a little early into a measure.

Lucas Long, left, auto technology teacher at Triplett Tech in Mount Jackson, speaks to Shenandoah County District 2 Supervisor Steve Baker, left, and District 2 School Board member Rick Koontz, center, and District 5 School Board member Shelby Kline, right, during a school tour. Rich Cooley/Daily

Whitford then told those on the tour of how they are supported by donations of instruments and money to repair instruments as needed.

In the Agriculture Department, students giving the tour stood before a large tank and showed the supervisors and board members the tilapia fish they raised in a tank they helped construct. The waste from the fish is used to help fertilize plants and eventually the fish will either be cooked in the cafeteria and eaten or sold, the students said.

The tour began at Triplett Tech, where they saw a many of the vocational classes in the school, including the carpentry program where students were building a home that will be auctioned off at the end of the school year.

Two of the students constructing the house were Logan McNair and Evin Armstrong.

“It’s pretty cool,” McNair said about being able to build a home.

Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Mark A. Johnston, left, joins North Fork Middle School student Jazlyn Beatty, 10, Linda Hodges, supervisor of human resources, and District 1 School Board member Karen Whetzel as the group tries out bike desks during a tour on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Armstrong added, “We built one last year. It is on Rittenour Road.”

That home sold for $30,000, school officials said. The school is hoping this home will bring in more money.

Two members of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors attended the tour – Steven Baker and Dennis Morris. Chairman Conrad Helsley, Vice Chairman Dick Neese, Richard Walker and Karl Roulston did not attend. Shenandoah County School Board member Sonya Williams Giersch did not join the tour.

Stonewall Jackson High School Principal Mike Dorman gives District 4 School Board member Michelle Manning, left, and District 4 School Board member Cynthia Walsh, center, a spreadsheet on student data during a tour Tuesday morning. Rich Cooley/Daily