More Ideas Are Being Brought Forth During Public Meetings On The Bath School Division’s Six Year Comprehensive Plan
Hot Springs, Va – On Monday night, parents and community members gathered at Valley Elementary School in Hot Springs to share ideas for the six year comprehensive plan for Bath County Schools. But the meeting started out with discussion on a more immediate concern, the 25 first graders at Valley Elementary that will be in one class this year.
Last year there were two first grade classes and parents asked why there will be only one this year. Parents felt money might be available for another teacher since the school system returned excess funds back to the county at the end of the school year.
School Superintendent Sue Hirsh explained that school Principal Les Balgavy makes the staffing decisions at the elementary schools. Hirsh said she’s hoping to make some revisions to this plan and that might include going to the Board of Supervisors to ask for some of the money back in order to pay an additional teacher.
Mary Adderton was at Monday night’s meeting. She’s a retired teacher who taught in Bath County Schools for 43 years. She now works for Virginia Rural Health in the Bath and Highland school systems doing programs on drug abuse and peer pressure education.
“As much as I would like to see a classroom with 18 students or 15 students, I think a good teacher is the key to a good education” says Adderton. “And I think that if you have 25 and you know what you’re doing, that children can come out knowing everything that they need to know. The educator makes the difference.”
“And the number’s not something that’s desirable, you know, we’d like to see it small. But I think we have to look at it from the standpoint if it’s not small that to entrust the teacher and the administrator to work the things out where those kids will get what they need.”
As the meeting went on, concerns and ideas for the comprehensive plan were discussed.
There were suggestions to strengthen the science program at the high school and to add more vocational education offerings, such as a Certified Nursing Assistant program.
There was also a suggestion to go to block scheduling at the high school. That way its schedule would coincide with the schedule at The Governor’s School and at Dabney S. Lancaster Community College. Students could more easily take advantage of course offerings at those schools.
And the topic of declining enrollment came up. School Board member Barbara Waldeck said that in ten years there could be only 150 students at the high school. She said plans need to be made now to deal with that, because the division can’t wait six years to get ready. Again, here’s Mary Adderton.
“Enrollment’s dropping and I think the challenge is what do we do to keep all the schools open” says Adderton. “No one wants to see their community schools close, but you have to look at it from a holistic approach; what is best for the students as a whole in Bath County schools and it may mean that we have to consolidate, it’s an emotional thing. And I can understand how people feel because I’m the product of a school that had to close in Richmond, Kentucky. But I made it and it all works out if you look at it from the standpoint of the educators and what they can do with your kids, wherever they are. The building does not make the difference.”
The next meeting for public input on the School Division’s comprehensive plan is Thursday August 11 at 7pm at the Burnsville Community Center.