Students in the public school systems in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties and the city of Fredericksburg start classes Tuesday, joining counterparts in neighboring localities who started in August. Here’s some of the changes that await them:
STAFFORD: APPS AND UPGRADES
The new Stafford school system mobile app will enable parents to view their students’ attendance, schedule, courses, assignments, grades, lunch money account and bus routes. The app has more than 5,500 downloads.
Parents will also continue to have access to the My Stop app, which allows them to track the location of their children’s school buses, making it easier to tell when the bus will arrive or if it will be late. Last year, the app was implemented under a pilot program, and this school year marks its official rollout.
At North Stafford High School, students will be greeted by a renovated gymnasium featuring a new floor and bleachers, repainted walls and ceiling, new water coolers and an upgrade of the audio system to wireless microphones. The gym will be open when students return to school.
The school’s library is also getting a renovation. The 9,500-square-foot library will feature a makerspace, technology lab, seven collaborative rooms and new offices for library staff. It will be completed the first week of October.
Stafford has also approved several new non-transportation walking zones, added more features to the ParentVue and StudentVue online portals and will offer dual enrollment for the Commonwealth Governor’s School chemistry class with Richard Bland College of William and Mary.
One challenge facing the division as the new school year approaches is filling vacant bus driver positions. As of last week, the county had at least 28 driving positions needing to be filled to reach the 220 needed to fully staff routes.
Barry Sudduth, director of transportation for Stafford schools, said a lot of people are attending bus driver classes and the system expects more positions to be filled by the second week of school.
“We will still need bus drivers, but it’s not as bad as we previously experienced,” Sudduth said.
SPOTSYLVANIA: FACELIFT FOR COURTLAND
A $31 million transformation of Spotsylvania County’s Courtland High School, built in 1980, will begin this school year.
The project includes new heating and air-conditioning systems, flooring, windows and lighting; upgrades to bathrooms and the auditorium; a reconfigured “secure and inviting” entrance; a revamped performing arts wing; and a refurbished library that will serve as the school’s hub.
“It’s getting a complete facelift,” School Board member Baron Braswell said. The renovation, expected to take two years, will also increase the school’s capacity from 1,200 students to about 1,500, he said.
Chancellor High, Chancellor Middle and Riverview Elementary will also have new energy-efficient lighting at a total cost of $1.55 million. Battlefield Elementary is getting $380,000 worth of LED lighting in the spring.
In addition, Spotsylvania High School has new seats in the auditorium, and the school system resurfaced the tennis courts at Massaponax High. And both of those schools installed greenhouses for science and agriculture classes.
The school system is also piloting activity buses, which take students home from sports practices and other activities, at Post Oak Middle and Spotsylvania High. The School Board eliminated the activity buses in 2009 to reduce costs.
The athletics fee, another product of the economic downturn, will be $50 per sports team, down from $75 last school year. The School Board hopes to eventually eliminate that fee, which was $100 when members first approved it in 2010.
The school system is also introducing a bus called ROVER, short for Resource Outreach Vehicle Enriching Residents. ROVER will visit schools and neighborhoods, where officials will pass out books, help students with homework and even register students for school.
FREDERICKSBURG: IB IN ELEMENTARIES
Fredericksburg’s public schools are switching Hugh Mercer and Lafayette Upper elementary schools to the International Baccalaureate program Tuesday.
This will complete an effort to offer IB, as it is called, to all four schools in the system. James Monroe High School was the first to begin the two-year process toward becoming an IB World School. It offered students the option of taking the IB track in 2015.
The school system has not authorized any other new programs this year, so teachers, especially those in grades K-5, will have time to become familiar with the IB method of teaching, said Harry Thomas, the schools’ director of instruction.
The school system has enough bus drivers, but will need additional substitute drivers, said Jonathan Russ, the Fredericksburg school system’s chief administrative officer.