By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack school board voted unanimously June 15 to approve a memorandum of understanding or MOU between the school district and the Chincoteague Police Department, allowing the CPD to continue the application process for a state grant that would fund a new school resource officer position at Chincoteague High School for the next two years.
Chairman Paul Bull, anticipating that the school board would approve the MOU, had signed it two weeks ahead of the vote so the CPD could meet a grant application deadline.
A public hearing was held June 15 before the vote on the MOU, with only one person commenting, Karen Downing, who spoke on behalf of the Eastern Shore chapter of Virginia Organizing.
She questioned why a separate MOU for school resource officers was needed for the Chincoteague Police Department when the school board had approved an identical MOU for the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office in September 2020, which should have covered the entire county, including its towns.
Bull clarified that the separate MOU was needed for the grant application.
Downing also remarked that “the MOU that was signed in September, it was done so in an urgent manner … right before school started. And here we are again, with this urgent matter, and it seems like it’s more of a business practice than an exception.”
She spoke again during the regular public comment period to voice concern over alleged issues with sportsmanship during competitions on Accomack County Public Schools athletic fields.
Bull noted that the allegations were being investigated and a report would be made at the next school board meeting in July.
Course Offering Guide
Director of Secondary Education Karen Taylor presented the school board with the proposed Accomack County Public Schools Course Offering and Graduation Guide for the 2021-2022 school year.
The proposed guide addressed new requirements from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), particularly that a student now must pass only five Standards of Learning or SOL tests to graduate with either a standard or advanced diploma, down from six and nine, respectively, Taylor said.
The biggest change in the guide was the addition of more electives and dual-enrollment classes that students may take.
More automotive dual-enrollment classes will be offered so that participating students can graduate with up to 10 automotive certifications and five college classes completed.
Emergency medical technician or EMT dual-enrollment classes will be offered; Taylor is still working out the details with Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC), which will include age requirements and experiences in the field such as participating in ambulance runs.
Two environmental science dual-enrollment classes will be offered; students who take both courses will earn eight college credits.
School board member Camesha Handy suggested also adding a dual-enrollment student development class, a one-credit, approximately eight-week course that all college students must take before graduating, which teaches them college success skills.
The course covers topics such as college and university operations, fiscal responsibility, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Handy said.
She believes all high school graduates who have taken dual-enrollment courses should be “fully aware of what college is really about.”
New history courses to be offered include foundations of history, an elective that can be used as remediation to help a student pass a history SOL needed for graduation, and African American history, an elective set to return after about a 15-year hiatus.
Seven computer science courses will be added, three of which will be electives. The other four computer science courses can be used to fulfill standard credit requirements for graduation: computer math for one math credit, advanced placement (AP) computer science A for one science credit, and programming or advanced programming for one career and technical education (CTE) credit.
ACPS also will offer the Virginia Teachers of Tomorrow curriculum, a program approved by VDOE for students interested in education careers, which teaches the foundations of education and provides field experiences.
Accomack students took about 320 dual-enrollment and 150 AP courses this year.
The number of dual-enrollment and AP classes being dropped by students decreased “dramatically” since a $100 penalty was introduced for dropping those types of classes, Taylor said.
The $100 penalty also must be paid if a student earns a grade of D or F in a dual-enrollment or AP class.
The course offering guide also will be changed to align with ESCC’s requirements for dual-enrollment and career and technical education (CTE) classes.
A student must have a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 2.0 to take CTE classes and 3.0 for dual-enrollment classes. A student who does not meet the minimum GPA requirements will not be permitted to take a dual-enrollment or CTE course with a letter of recommendation from a teacher.
ACPS will also require a minimum GPA of 3.0 to take AP classes; a GPA of 3.5 is recommended to take either a dual-enrollment or AP class.
About 30% of ACPS students will meet the 3.0 GPA requirement to take dual-enrollment or AP classes. Taylor noted more students achieve a 3.0 GPA now that ACPS uses a 10-point grading scale.
Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Hall reported that of 4,866 ACPS students, only 107, or 2% of students, applied to participate in virtual learning for the 2021-2022 school year through the online learning program Virtual Virginia.
Of the 107 applications received, 69 were approved by a committee of school personnel and administrators, based on the students’ previous experience with virtual learning, including online class attendance, grades, and SOL data.
About 1.4% of ACPS students were approved for virtual learning when classes resume this fall.