Student members of Martinsville High School’s new anti-bullying committee address the Martinsville School Board during its Oct. 14 meeting.

By Kim Barto Meeks

Staff Writer

Martinsville City Schools will be ready to roll out a new website as soon as next Thursday, school board members learned at their Oct. 14 meeting.

The school system’s current website is about six years old and lacks some functionality, especially when viewed on a mobile device.

The new website for Martinsville City Schools will be ready next week. The current website, pictured here, is about six years old and outdated in terms of web technology.

Beth Deatherage of Momenta, the company building the website, presented the new design to the board and described some of the features. “It’s all been built. Now we’re just fine-tuning the content and filling up the school sites,” she said.

The site is responsive, meaning it will adapt to fit on the screen if viewed on a phone or other mobile device. The homepage features “hot links” with icons of pages used frequently by students and parents, such as access to student grades, important announcements and a calendar of events. Each school website features a consistent look but is customized with the colors and popular links tailored to each school, Deatherage said.

Sarah Byrd, the division’s Director of Human Resources, Communications, and Community Outreach, said the division revised its mission, vision, goals, and logo last year. Materials with the old logo are being phased out, and the redesigned website will feature the new branding.

Also during the meeting, the school board heard from students at each school about anti-bullying efforts taking place throughout October for National Bullying Prevention Month. For example, students at Martinsville Middle School participated in a video demonstrating different types of bullying and encouraged their peers to speak up.

High school guidance counselor Kristen Scott introduced a new committee of students formed to address bullying at their school. Teenagers may not always speak up about bullying because they don’t want to look like a “snitch,” she said. The four students told the board they are “all about including people” and are here to stop harmful gossiping and bullying. Part of their focus is encouraging bystanders to take action when they see someone being bullied to speak up for the victim or go to a trusted adult.

School Board Chair Donna Dillard said she and school board member Dominique Hylton attended a webinar on school-based programs against bullying and praised the schools for their efforts. “We’re not going to tolerate bullying in school,” she said.

In addition, the school board:

  • Heard from School Nutrition Director Sheilah Williams that three schools have once again received the state Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant. Albert Harris Elementary, Patrick Henry Elementary, and Clearview Early Childhood Center will each receive about $65 per student to purchase additional fresh produce as a snack three times a week during the 2019-20 school year. The program is “intended to create healthier school environments, to increase students’ consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, and connect the classroom and cafeteria by implementing farm to school initiatives,” Williams said. Along with the additional exposure to fresh produce, students and parents receive education about nutrition and healthy recipe ideas.
  • Learned that the Second Chance Breakfast program at Martinsville High School has increased student participation in school breakfast by 65 percent. Williams said the program offers students who arrive late or who are not hungry first thing in the morning the chance to pick up a “grab and go” breakfast from a kiosk in the school commons between first and second blocks.
  • Approved the consent agenda, including the minutes from the Sept. 9 school board meeting and financial report through Sept. 30.
  • Received an update on the new English textbook adoption process from Assistant Superintendent Angilee Downing. Teachers have reviewed the available options and selected their preferred textbooks, which will be available for public review at Central Office for the next month before the board votes to adopt them at the November meeting.
  • Approved updates to the Board Policy Manual to comply with recommendations from the Virginia School Boards Association. These included updates to six policies and retirement of eight others because they had been combined with other policies. The VSBA policy team publishes updates and revisions to the policy manual based on actions passed in the most recent General Assembly session or by actions passed at the federal government level. Changes include such items as language edits, legal reference updates, and cross reference updates.