By Taylor Boyd
School principals in Martinsville discussed the challenges and accomplishments of the 2021-2022 school year at the end of the year board meeting.
While school began and largely remained fully virtual, the year was a success because of the relationships between the schools and the community, the principals said.
“I witnessed teachers and parents working together, drawing from each other’s strengths, and sharing ideas and activities. The teachers came together to collaborate even more and were willing to help wherever there was a need,” said Sheilah Williams, director of Early Childhood Services at Clearview Early Learning Center and Director of School Nutrition Services.
Virtual school allowed teachers to provide an alternative form of education from years before, with students participating in STEM projects, cooking lessons, recorded book reads, and other projects at home. Teachers had the ability to provide customized one-on-one education to students, while also getting students to participate in “lots of peer-coaching, teamwork, collaboration, and peer-mentoring,” Williams said.
Technology gave students replacement experiences for what they missed out on from a traditional school year.
“We took a trip to the beach, we cruised to the Bahamas, we went camping, we hit Dino land, we hit construction sites” instead of taking traditional field trips, she said.
The importance of the social and emotional wellbeing of students and staff also was emphasized throughout the year.
“Teachers checked in with students every day to make sure that they were okay. They deepened relationships even through the computer,” according to Cameron Cooper, principal at Patrick Henry Elementary School.
Cooper added it was amazing to see how those relationships had deepened when students returned to the classroom.
She said teachers held fun Friday events and other social get togethers for students to give them time to talk and socialize. School staff offered treats, mostly food, to one another to help each other get through the day and show support.
To encourage teachers and students to laugh, Assistant Principal of Martinsville Middle School Alma Waller said the school held masked singer events “where everyone could be goofy and show off their singing talents.”
The Books in Hand program continued, with books sent to students. Cooper said Patrick Henry held a free book fair at the end of the year in which students were offered four books to take home to encourage summer reading.
“In addition to that, we have a free book cart that’s on the porch every single day, so there’s free books available 24/7 on our front porch,” Cooper said.
While it was a difficult year, Williams said the most rewarding part of it was “hearing from the families and the fact that the parents were able to see their children learn and see the progress in a brand new and exciting way.”
City schools remained fully virtual until March 8, when special identified populations began attending in-person instruction four days a week. On April 12, any student whose parents registered them for hybrid learning, or needed to prepare for SOL testing or do performance-based assessments, were allowed to enter classrooms.
In other matters, the school board:
*Heard from Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Angilee Downing about the African American Studies course, which is set to begin in Fall 2021 at Martinsville High School. The course has no prerequisites and will be broken into two parts to be taken during the fall and spring semesters. All grades may take the performance- and project-based class.
Downing said the course is to help students understand the culture and history of Africa and teach African American history from the African American perspective.
“This is what we perceive as a constantly evolving and developing curriculum,” she said, adding resources will include multimedia, video, literature, texts, articles “to help students assimilate, understand and synthesize all this information.”
*Heard from Felecia Preston, Director of Pupil Personnel & Foster Care/Homeless Liaison about youth vaccination. Preston said a drive-thru style clinic will be set up at Martinsville High School for those 12 and above to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Parents must bring a consent form and be there when their child receives a vaccine. Consent forms and information about the vaccine are available at the schools and will be mailed to parents.
“It is optional, not mandatory. It’s just an opportunity for our community to get vaccinated if they would like to,” Preston said.
The first dose will be given on July 1 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The second dose will be given on July 22 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
*Heard from Williams about the Summer Feeding program. Meals are available for pick-up at the Martinsville City Public Schools.
“We are not doing door-to-door deliveries this summer, you’ll actually have to come up to pick up meals,” Williams said.
Multiple meals are included in the pick-up, and identification is not required. A form must be filled out for pickup, but children do not have to be there to receive meals.
Breakfast and lunch are available for pickup at Martinsville Middle School, Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. until June 24. Clearview Early Learning Center will pass out breakfast and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. until July 1.
Albert Harris Elementary School and Patrick Henry Elementary School are open for lunch and snacks until July 1 from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Martinsville High School provides breakfast and lunch, Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
*Recognized Schools Superintendent Dr. Zebedee Tally Jr. for winning the National Avid Leadership Service Award.
*Received a copy of the 4th grade class book, “From Fear to Hope” from Renee Brown.
*Approved the minutes of the May 10 meeting as presented.
*Approved the minutes and post-session minutes of the May 24 meeting.
*Approved the financial report ending May 31, 2021, as presented.
*Voted to give Tally the authorization to assign teachers, principals, and assistant principals for the upcoming school year.
*Voted to give Tally the ability to appoint a superintendent in his absence.
*Approved the Federal Fund Consolidated application request as presented.
*Approved the Title III Federal Fund application request as presented.
*Approved the VPSA (Virginia Public School Authority) resolution.