New Fire Marshal Orders $55,300 Northampton High Repairs

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By Stefanie Jackson – The first inspection of Northampton High School by a new fire marshal resulted in $55,300 of required improvements, Northampton County Finance Director John Chandler revealed earlier this month.

“I got a stupid question. What are the consequences if we don’t (make the improvements)?” Supervisor Robert Duer asked.

Northampton County Schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence said the school would be closed.

“That’s what I wanted you to say,” Duer said.

The $55,300 did not include the cost of additional improvements that were ordered by the fire marshal and are being disputed.

Equipment that is being replaced or upgraded includes smoke detectors, sprinklers, fire panels, emergency lights, and ballasts that regulate current to the lights.

Northampton supervisors passed the proposed budget appropriation unanimously.

The structural investigation of Northampton High School officially began March 19 with a kickoff meeting attended by Waller, Todd, and Sadler, the architectural firm awarded the job.

Also present were the Lynch Mykins structural engineering firm and representatives of the Northampton school board, board of supervisors, and county administration.

As of April 1, assessments of the high school’s roof, interior, and mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems were complete. The assessment of the building’s exterior was about 50% complete.

The written report on the investigation is expected in early to mid-May, or approximately six to eight weeks after the investigation’s start.

Principal Ron Yorko, of Nandua Middle School, and Principal Shirley Auguste, of Occohannock Elementary School, updated the school board on their respective school improvement plans.

Yorko’s plan for improving students’ reading skills revolves around the Level Literacy Intervention (LLI). The intervention groups students together who read at the same level and “puts real books in kids’ hands,” he has said.

Four times per week, 39 middle schoolers receive the intervention, and once a week, their progress is monitored by having the students read aloud and answer questions about the material.

Of 39 students, 29, or 74%, have had a “good response,” meaning they have shown growth. Of those 29 students, 16, or more than half, have advanced and are now being monitored for comprehension rather than reading fluency.

Nine students have had a “questionable response,” meaning their reading performances fluctuate, although they appear to be on a gradual upward trend.

Only one student has had a “poor response,” showing no signs of improvement and needing an alternate intervention.

There are also 35 middle schoolers receiving one of two math interventions, Number Worlds and IXL Math.

The school division is seeking a math progress monitoring tool. Math remediation success is currently tracked through whole group worksheets.

Auguste focused on another aspect of school improvement – encouraging positive behaviors –  with an update on the Check In Check Out program.

Participating students keep a list of goals, and periodically throughout the day, they check in with adults who monitor their progress and provide encouragement.

Students earn 0 to 2 points for their performance in each area, up to 30 points per day.

Of 25 participating students, 20 are meeting or exceeding behavior expectations by 80% or more.

Auguste shared data showing students are gradually moving into higher academic tiers, in which Tier 1 students need the least help and Tier 3 students need the most help.

For reading, in grades three to six, one or two students from each grade entered Tier 1, and one or more students in each grade left Tier 3.

Those numbers seem small, but they mean that groups of Tier 3 students decreased by as much as 25%.

Auguste also noted the positive impact of reducing student absences and showing appreciation for students when they’re present.

Because of a new focus on relationships, Auguste said, students that used to drag their feet when they arrived at school now run up to her for a high five.

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