Accomack School Board Extends Upcoming Winter Break

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to add three days to winter break, which will now begin Monday, Dec. 20, with students returning to school Monday, Jan. 3.

“I feel like it’s important, the way the (COVID-19) pandemic is. … A lot of divisions are doing this, and I feel very strongly about it,” said Superintendent Chris Holland.

It’s the third time this year that the Accomack school board approved extra breaks from instructional time for teachers. The school board extended Thanksgiving break from three days to a full week, and it approved two-hour early dismissals on two Wednesdays per month for teachers to catch up on planning, grading, and administrative tasks.

Regular 12-month employees are welcome to use personal time if they wish to take off Monday, Dec. 20 through Wednesday, Dec. 22, Holland said.

Accounting for the extended winter break, seven inclement weather days will remain available.

Bonuses

Accomack County Public Schools has planned to give employees bonuses this year similar to the bonuses approved by Accomack supervisors for county employees.

The bonuses approved by Accomack supervisors included $3,000 for each first responder and $1,500 for every other employee.

Accomack schools Finance Director Beth Onley proposed bonuses up to $1,500 for all contracted full- and part-time employees.

To receive a bonus, an ACPS employee must have been employed on Nov. 1, performed job duties for at least 10 days from Sept. 7 through Nov. 30, and remained active in a job position as of Nov. 30.

Each bonus will be prorated based on actual hours worked between Sept. 7 and Nov. 30, at a rate of $4.64 per hour, with a maximum bonus of $1,500.

STEM Labs

The Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation has committed its support to Accomack and Northampton public schools to become the first schools in Virginia with science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM labs, said Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Hall.

The STEM centers will provide hands-on learning opportunities to all students.

The first phase of the project will include setting up STEM labs at Accawmacke, Kegotank, Pungoteague, and Chincoteague elementary schools and Chincoteague’s middle school.

The first-phase STEM centers should be ready by spring, with a ribbon-cutting and open house at one of the participating schools, Hall said.

The Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation’s goal is to provide STEM labs at all 13 elementary and middle schools on the Eastern Shore.

GEAR UP

Accomack will participate in a program called GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) administered in Virginia by the State Council of Higher Education.

The purpose of the DOE program is to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to attend and succeed at college or another postsecondary school.

The program will be open to all Accomack students of the Class of 2027, this year’s seventh graders.

Students may opt out, but each student who remains in the program through graduation will receive a $2,500 per semester scholarship.

Students who enroll will learn about career and education options available after high school, including two- and four-year college degrees, and technical and certification programs.

They will learn about financial aid and paying for their education and attend field trips and summer camps at various colleges and other postsecondary schools.

Students also will receive support with standardized testing, college and technical school applications, and financial aid and scholarship applications, and they will participate in tutoring and mentoring programs.

Seventh graders and their parents will attend orientation for GEAR UP. The coordinators at each participating school are Della Jordan, Arcadia Middle; Kim Ferguson, Nandua Middle; and Laura Cody, Chincoteague and Tangier combined schools.

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