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City schools prepare for transformation
Construction Site Supervisor Eddie Atkins (from left), Martinsville High School Principal Aji Dixon, Facilities Director Jerry Epling and Martinsville Schools Superintendent Pam Heath survey the construction zone in front of Martinsville High School. The main entrance has been fenced off as the former administrative office section is gutted to make way for state-of-the-art science labs. (Contributed photo)
Renovations are under way at Martinsville High School, and heavy demolition is occurring, but it should not disrupt instruction for students returning to school Monday, said Superintendent Pam Heath.
The main work being done now in the renovation process is gutting the first floor area where the new science labs will be placed, but Heath said the heavy demolition should be done by Monday.
The plans are that less noisy inside work be done during the school year, and another phase of heavy demolition will take place again next summer, she said.
Parts of the building are fenced or blocked off, but Heath feels that there should not be much confusion among the students or any safety concerns because everything is clearly marked where the construction is taking place, she said.
Due to the renovations, the main entryway has been rerouted to the cafeteria entrance. Also, the cafeteria has been separated by partitions because the front office now is located there, said Kim Barto of the city schools. The former front office is part of the area now being demolished, she added.
Once renovations are complete, the new front office will be located where the front courtyard is now. That will improve security by providing more visibility to see who is coming into the building, Barto said.
The entire renovation project consists of replacing all problem roofing areas and renovating the science labs, kitchen and commons areas. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the next school year, Barto said.
The school system’s theme for the new school year is transformation, Heath said. That idea applies to instruction as well as the high school, she added.
There will be more project-based learning incorporated into instruction to help students apply the curriculum to real-life situations, Heath said.
“We want all of our students to be college and career ready,” and the school system has been speaking with representatives of area businesses, the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corp., New College Institute and Patrick Henry Community College to determine what skills are needed for students to either enter the work force or enter college, Heath said.
The goal is to “create a pipeline” for area businesses and area colleges, which could in turn help the students and the community prosper, she added.
The school system will focus more on teaching students how to think critically, solve problems and collaborate and work together as a team, Heath said, adding that these skills are needed for either college or the work force.
Students also will have more opportunities for internships and apprenticeships with area businesses this year, which will make their learning more relevant, Heath added.
Another focus will be integrating technology more into the classroom, particularly through digital learning, Barto said.
The school system will be continuing its blended learning program called Virtual Virginia, which consists of online courses for middle and high school students. Virtual Virginia allows students to have a traditional teacher in the classroom, but all the coursework is online, Barto said.
This year, the school system wants to focus on improving students’ computer literacy. Through Virtual Virginia, the students gain computer skills by completing assignments online and watching podcasts for certain instruction, Barto added.
The program is ideal for students who want to take courses not offered at the high school, such as Chinese and Japanese, Barto said.
For the first time this year, a semester-long economics and personal finance course will be a graduation requirement based on new state standards, Barto said. In the course, students will learn how to balance a checkbook, manage credit card debt and handle the payment of student loans, she added.
Economics and personal finance modules have been taught in the city schools previously, but this is the first time that it will be a full course, Barto said.
The course makes students “better prepared to be independent when they graduate,” she added.
For this year, 12 new employees were hired, including teachers, counselors, psychologists and a new assistant principal at the high school, according to Barto.
The orientation for rising sixth graders will be from 8:20 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today at the middle school.