Schools will start days earlier in January

Published 8:03 am Friday, December 22, 2023

Elementary and middle school students in Lunenburg County will start their school days earlier and end later, once they return from Christmas break. That was what parents were told in a letter that went out last week from Lunenburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Stanislas. In the letter, Stanislas explained that the schedule changes were part of the district’s plan to implement Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s “All In” project, focusing on high-intensity tutoring and improving reading skills. 

The time changes aren’t major, just adding a few minutes at the beginning and ending of the school day. At Lunenburg Middle School, beginning on Jan. 8, classes will start at 7:55 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. The school day at Lunenburg Middle will end at 3:15 p.m. instead of 3:08 p.m. Now this will delay some students in getting home, as bus schedules will be impacted due to classes dismissing seven minutes later. 

The changes are a bit bigger at Kenbridge Elementary and Victoria Elementary, with classes starting at 8:25 a.m. instead of 8:50 a.m. In that case, Stanislas told parents the earlier start to the day shouldn’t affect bus schedules, as students are normally already in the buildings by 8:25 a.m.

“This program will provide opportunities to enhance learning outcomes for our students, thereby contributing to the culture of educational excellence established in Lunenburg County Public Schools,” Stanislas wrote in the letter to parents. “I am excited about the opportunity to provide a structured accelerated program for our students and look forward to all students experiencing greater success.” 

WHAT IS ACCELERATED TUTORING? 

Back in September, Gov. Youngkin rolled out his “All In” project, allocating money to each district to develop programs to cut down on learning loss as a result of the pandemic. Part of that involves high-intensity tutoring. That means cutting out part of the school day for tutoring sessions, specifically three to five hours each week. The goal here is to identify what subject or subjects the student is struggling with and working to help them better understand it. Now this also requires some volunteer tutors, because the governor’s order calls for it to take place in a much smaller classroom. Instead of 20 to 25 students, the tutoring sessions are supposed to have no more than 10 students for each teacher or tutor. Teachers are paid extra for the tutoring time, as are any assistants. 

Lunenburg County received $308,094 from the state for the tutoring portion of “All In”. The middle and elementary schools will, beginning in January, set aside one hour each day so students can get tutoring in whatever subject they need. A total of 64 teachers will be working with the tutoring project, receiving $30 per hour, with 10 instructional assistants collecting $20 per hour. All of the assistants or tutors will also get training, if they’ve never been in the classroom, to make sure they’re using the best practices to help. 

And there is a need. This year’s Standards of Learning scores continued a decline, with just 68% of English students, 63% of Math and 61% of science students passing their exams at Lunenburg Middle. Kenbridge Elementary, meanwhile, saw the worst dropoff when it comes to test scores. In science, only 46% of students passed, down from 59% last year.