County schools outline plan for student shift

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 5, 2007

BERLIN—A small group of interested citizens heard Monday the outline of a plan to move nearly 100 students from Nottoway Elementary School to the new Riverdale Elementary next year.

In a special public meeting at Nottoway, school officials explained their plans for the transition to the new school, including the future use of Hunterdale Elementary, whose students will constitute the bulk of Riverdale’s population.

The majority of Nottoway students who will make the move next fall live in Courtland and Darden Mill Estates. School administrators have said they want to reduce the student population of Nottoway from its current level of about 380. The school was designed for 500 students.

A benefit to those Nottoway students who do not move will be smaller class sizes for kindergarten through third grade, School Board member David Watkins said Monday.

The goal will be to get Nottoway’s remaining classes in line with the county’s average class size of 20 or fewer students, which he called one of the most important contributors to students’ academic success.

&uot;They’re maxed out right now,&uot; William F. Grizzard, director of operations for Southampton’s public schools, said recently of Nottoway Elementary. &uot;This will give them room for flexibility.&uot;

Joining the Nottoway students in the new facility on Camp Parkway outside of Franklin will be several residents of Cypress Bridge Manor Trailer Park who now attend Meherrin Elementary School, as well as nearly 390 Hunterdale students. Preschool students from throughout the county also would be taught at the new school.

Riverdale would have a starting enrollment of about 570 under the School Board’s plan. It has a design capacity of 750. The school was designed by Moseley Architects, the same company that designed Nottoway and Meherrin Elementary schools, which were built in 2001.

The future of the aging and overcrowded Hunterdale Elementary School represents another important part of the county’s transition plan, and administrators have plans that include expanding an existing program and using the facility to house it.

Dr. Wayne Smith, director of administration and middle school instruction, said the old school would become a place where troubled students can get a fresh start under current School Board plans.

The &uot;Fresh Start&uot; program is an alternative to long-term suspension or expulsion for disruptive students, &uot;so when you go back to middle or high school, you are a model student,&uot; he said.

The program &uot;gives us the opportunity to do more for them than behavior modification,&uot; School Board member Watkins said.

&uot;Building positive self-esteem, setting goals and accomplishing objectives in a simulated work environment are key objectives in Fresh Start,&uot; according to information Smith distributed Monday.

Smith said about 25 students participate in the program, which currently is based in the old Courtland Elementary School.

Their parents provide transportation each day, and lunches are brought from another school, keeping staff requirements low.

Moving the disciplinary students out of the Courtland facility will put more classrooms there at the disposal of the countywide Head Start program.

In a new twist, the Fresh Start alternative education program also will focus on overage middle school and high school students, helping them to learn the skills they need to be successful in high school.