Virginia School Boards Association Showcases Programs at Two Fredericksburg-Area School Divisions

Stafford and Caroline County Public Schools each have programs included in the 28th annual Virginia School Board Association’s Showcases for Success directory.

The two local divisions are among 43 divisions statewide that are profiled in the publication, which highlights successful K-12 programs in Virginia.

Caroline County

The three Caroline County programs that are included are #OnePreschool, All in with Mental Health and Wellness, and the CTE Summer Camp.

#OnePreschool blends together four separate preschool programs—Head Start, the Virginia Preschool Initiative, Early Childhood Special Education, and Title I—under one umbrella, offering a streamlined application process, equitable classroom materials, and more opportunities for family engagement and professional learning.

The mental health and wellness program grew out an identified increase in the number of students missing school due to anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, according to a press release from the school division.

The division used state funding from Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s ALL In VA initiative to develop a new partnership with the Cook Counseling Center out of Virginia and and created a five-part, virtual mental health series presented by clinicians.

All parents and staff members have access through the partnership to 1:1 weekly coaching, and staff will receive summer professional development to help them “[take] charge of their own mental health and wellness.”

“Through these efforts, parents and staff are learning strategies to empower our students and increase classroom attendance,” the press release states.

The free, week-long CTE summer camp gives participants a chance to rotate between six programs—JROTC, Carpentry, Automotive, Culinary, Criminal Justice, and Agriculture—to learn about course offerings and career fields and engage in hands-on learning.

The camp was first offered last summer, and all 75 slots were filled within 72 hours of registration opening.

Stafford County

The showcase highlights Stafford County’s specialty centers, its new AI policy, and its partnership with the Jed Foundation to support student mental health.

The specialty centers are four-year pathways for high school students that are meant to lead to “high quality post-secondary outcomes,” whether it be a career or higher education, according to a description on the school division’s website.

Each center will incorporate work-based learning and interdisciplinary coursework and provide opportunities for engagement with the community and local business leaders.

Three of an eventual six specialty centers are opening in the fall of 2024—the Leadership, Education, and Public Service (LEAPS) Center at Mountain View High School; the Engineering Professions and Industries of Construction (EPIC) Center at Stafford High School; and the Community Health and Medical Professions (CHAMP) Center at Brooke Point High School.

The Stafford School Board approved the division’s AI policy in January, making it the first in Virginia to officially adopt policy and regulation regarding the ethical and responsible use of Artificial Intelligence in K-12 education, according to the showcase.

The policy was developed by staff, parents, technology experts and the School Board’s Technology Advisory Committee. It includes training for teachers and students regarding academic integrity, student data privacy, and inherent biases, and provides for communication with parents about age-appropriate use of AI in school.

Stafford’s mental health program is supported by the Jed Foundation and the School Superintendents Association. Stafford is one of 18 school divisions nationally to participate in the District Comprehensive Approach, a four-year initiative between the two organizations that will provide “evidence-based framework, expert support, and data-driven guidance to address mental health and reduce suicide risks.”

Managing Editor and Correspondent