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School Board looks ahead

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Strategic plan for county school system gets update

By John Barnhart

    The Bedford County School Board closed out 2011 with a work session dedicated to the school division’s strategic plan.

    The school board passed its strategic plan, which can be seen on the school division’s Web site at www.bedford.k12.va.us, at the beginning of this year. At Thursday’s work session, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Douglas Schuch, presented the school board with action plans to implement the strategic plan.
    “Many of the strategies support each other,” Dr. Schuch told school board members.
    One plan is establishing career internships for high school seniors. A pilot internship started at the beginning of this school year at Liberty High School (LHS) with 17 students participating. Dr. Mac Duis, the school division’s director of instruction, said that they chose LHS because there is a nearby cluster of businesses to support the program. He said that he had hoped that the student interns would get at least three hours a week and most are getting between six and seven.
    “Students report to us that it’s the best credit they ever had in school,” Duis said.
    Duis said that the plan is to have the internship program in all three high schools during the next school year and expand the internships to Lynchburg and Roanoke. The internships are tied to student interest, which means that they need to know which students are interested before they can line up businesses to provide internships.
    According to Dr. Schuch, the idea behind the internship plan, as with other plans, is to start small and expand to make it available to all students. He said that seniors were chosen because many do not take full schedules. They have been allowed to work out their hours with the businesses where they are interning.
    The written plan calls for doing an internship to be a requirement for graduation by June, 2017.
    Plans also call for blended learning to make an appearance in a number of areas. The plan for alternative education is one, where blended/online courses are to be offered by June, 2012. Meeting a state mandate for a personal finance course is another place.
    “We thought that the content for that course would be a good match,” said Duis.
    This will begin next year and, eventually, all students will be required to take at least one course in a blended learning format. Duis said many colleges have courses that are only available via computer. Furthermore, businesses are moving to Web-based training courses, so all students need to be exposed to this method of learning.
    Blended learning may also provide an opportunity for early graduation. Ed Hoisington, director of technology and media, said that some students have already expressed interest in using computer-based courses to let them complete courses faster. School Board Chairman Debbie Hoback, who said that she graduated at 16, told Hoisington that she would have appreciated that.
    “Think of what you missed [by graduating at 16],” commented District 6 School Board member Shirley McCabe.
    “I didn’t miss much,” replied Hoback.
    The action plans are all working documents and are subject to change, and some changes could be forced by budgetary constraints.
    “It could be, sadly, that some of these that have dollar figures attached to them, we can’t do it,” said Hoback.
    Some of the action plans are intended to address that. One is to advocate for improved local funding for the school division. Another is to advocate for improved state funding. There are also plans, with deadlines, for applying for specific grants. In addition, there are plans to investigate areas, such as outsourcing opportunities, that could result in savings.