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MHS classrooms earn rave reviews

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

By BY PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

People who toured seven new science classrooms Monday at Martinsville High School were impressed.

Public tours were given from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. before the school board meeting Monday night.

“It’s very nice,” said Dr. Gordon Green, director of the West Piedmont Health District. He liked, among other things, classroom windows allowing natural light, as well as the safety features in the classrooms, he said.

Leon Towarnicki, interim city manager, said, “It’s hard not to be impressed with what they’ve done.” He called the improvements “a total transformation,” and he said he feels the facilities are similar to those at colleges.

The new science classrooms are in an area that formerly housed offices and special education classes. They will replace four classrooms that lacked storage space and modern equipment and were cramped due to odd shapes.

Teresa Davis, a biology teacher and chairman of the school’s science department, said the new labs are more spacious, address safety issues and allow for collaborative grouping. Safety features include safety showers, eye washes and fire blankets. She pointed out, among other things, easy-to-access equipment, large tables/work stations, and plentiful cabinets and storage/preparation areas.

Amy Clemons, a preschool teacher who attended MHS, and, “It’s neat to see the change.” She said she thinks the facilities are “very impressive — good technology, good space, really nice,”

Morgan Clemons, her daughter and a seventh-grade student at Martinsville Middle School said, “I like it a lot.” She said the science classrooms are “really hands-on,” safe and offer easy access to equipment and work stations.

City Councilman Mark Stroud said: “I think everything is beautiful. It’s light years ahead of where we were.” He said he thinks the facilities will help with recruitment and retention of science teachers.

School board Chairman Bill Manning described the new science classrooms as “a night-and-day improvement: brighter, spacious. The arrangement is conducive to really learning.” He said the facilities put “us back in the 21st century” and are competitive with other schools’ modern science labs.

About 30 people attended the tour.

In other business at the meeting, the school board:

• Updated a number of school board policies because of changes in state code. The policies deal with notification of learning objectives; character education; home instruction; prohibition against harassment and retaliation; and report of harassment.

• Heard a report from schools Superintendent Pam Heath, who said Feb. 18, which had been scheduled to be a teacher workday, will be an inclement weather makeup day. So far this school year, the school division has missed two days and had one two-hour delay because of inclement weather. In addition to the makeup day, the school division will make up the rest of the time missed by using “banked time” as a result of the school division having a longer school day than the state requires. If the school division misses any more days due to inclement, it will have to address the issue, she said.

• Heard a 2013-14 school budget update from Heath. She and Travis Clemons (who was interviewed later) said they couldn’t remember the budgets proposed by the House and Senate budget subcommittees being so close to the budget proposed by the governor, in terms of how they would affect Martinsville City Schools. The school division would receive an estimated $5,505 more under the House proposal than the governor’s proposal, and the school division would receive an estimated $36,340 more under the Senate proposal than the governor’s proposal, according to Heath and Clemons. The amount of money the school division would receive under the governor’s proposal was not available at the school board meeting.

Heath said among the challenges the school division faces in developing a budget for 2013-14 are increased expenses due to changes in the Virginia Retirement System (in terms of employee contributions and employee raises to help offset those contributions) that the school division began phasing in last year, unknown impacts of national health care reform, the possibility of employee raises under various state budget proposals and bills that could bear costs for the school division if passed.

• Approved two resignations, effective at the end of the school year: Joyce Hankins, who will retire as a teacher at Martinsville Middle School; and Tamara Stone, who will resign as a math teacher at high school.

• Voted to appoint Orion Martin, a Henry County native and former Virginia Tech football star, to lead the Martinsville High School Bulldogs in 2013. Martin was approved as the school’s head football coach and a full-time special education teacher. (See story in sports section for more details.)

• Approved several other coaching appointments: William Hankins. head coach of varsity girls outdoor track at the high school; Rebecca Crabtree, co-head coach of varsity girls tennis at the high school; Jessica Anderson, assistant coach of varsity girls softball at the high school; Robert Divers, head coach of junior varsity boys baseball at the high school; and Donna Lowery, head coach of middle school girls outdoor track.

• Heard a report by Clemons on renovations at Martinsville High School. He reported that Building M (the addition on the front of the school) is 90 percent framed and roofing is commencing. He also reported that renovations to the cafeteria should begin in mid- to late April; the new special education room should be completed soon; and the seven new science classrooms are ready for equipment to be moved in.

Also, school division officials congratulated Joseph “Joby” Halpin, a student member of the school board, for receiving a presidential appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.


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