VERONA — Augusta County Schools have a lot to celebrate in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Teachers and staff have reported an excitement this year not previously felt in the school system.

Twelve new buses were welcomed to the school system’s fleet.

And now the school system can also say all 18 schools are fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.

“So, we would like to congratulate, and say thanks to all of our administrators, teachers and students, most importantly, for their continued efforts in reaching and maintaining our accreditation status,” said Augusta County Schools Instructional Supervisor Wendy Chandler.

Chandler provided a presentation for the school board Thursday night on accreditation in the absence of Augusta County Schools Director of Instruction and Technology Tina Kiracofe, who was out of town at a conference.

Chandler announced that all five high schools in the county are fully accredited, as they were last year, and for the second consecutive year all four middle schools are fully accredited. Five elementary schools that were previously accredited are again for 2019-2020, as well as four elementary schools that were not fully accredited last year. North River, Riverheads, Stuarts Draft and Wilson elementary schools are now fully accredited.

Bond said that this is the first time “in recent memory” that all of the county’s schools have been fully accredited without conditions.

“I would like to say publicly how incredibly proud I am of the performance of our students and our teachers and our administrators,” he said.

However, Bond said, other factors measure the success of a school system.

He added that the growth Stuarts Draft Elementary’s students made in math and their subgroup area was “phenomenal.”

“We’re very, very lucky to be where we are,” Bond said.

School Board Vice Chair Nicholas T. Collins lead Thursday’s meeting in the absence of Chairman Tim Swortzel.

“You can come back more often with that kind of news,” Collins said to Chandler.

In closing board comments, board member Donna H. Wells said she is “so proud to be a part of Augusta County Schools.”

Board member Timothy R. Quillen of the South River District announced that Tom Goforth will run as a write-in for his seat on the school board in November.

“I think in 20 years this is the first time that we can say every school is fully accredited [in Augusta County],” said Collins, who has served six terms on the school board.

Collins said that the school board can “see where focus on certain items by staff, by our instructional staff, down to our administrators, down to our teachers, where that focus has produced some results.”

Jill R. Martin, Augusta County Schools Executive Director of Personnel, provided an update for the school board about the Post-High Learning Lab, a house in Waynesboro for Waynesboro and Augusta County students ages 18 to 22 who have special needs.

“She hopes that it’ll be a real-life lab space, because it is in a house,” Martin said of Augusta County Schools Director of Students Services Miranda Ball.

The Post-High Learning Lab’s Waynesboro site will give students better access to public transportation and local work opportunities. Previously, students were housed at Wilson Memorial High School where space was limited.

“So it’s a win-win from what they’re doing now to when they move to the house,” Martin said.

On Sept. 28, volunteers helped build a deck on the back of the house, and finish work inside the house.

“Lots of community members, lots of school staff members showed up, and lots of volunteers who contributed their time and materials to the project,” Martin said of the house at 344 Poplar Ave., just behind Waynesboro High School.

Augusta County Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric W. Bond said the cabinets and appliances in the kitchen are all wheelchair accessible, as well as the back deck and restrooms.

“It’s a pretty impressive program,” said Bond.

The Post-High Learning Lab was made possible with many community partners, including the Shenandoah Valley Regional Program, Nibco, United Way of Greater Augusta, Renewing Homes of Greater Augusta, Waynesboro/Augusta Woman’s Club and Helmuth Builders.

Martin said the next step with the house is finishing the deck, electrical work in the basement and creating a transition plan for students. Originally, school officials had hoped students could begin using the house on Oct. 15, but making the kitchen wheelchair accessible delayed the opening to Nov. 6. A community open house is tentatively planned for Nov. 14.

“It’s really exciting, because it’s a true real-life learning lab,” Bond said. And the house’s proximity to local businesses will increase work opportunities for the 19 students in the program.

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