By Debbie Adams
Herman L. Horn Elementary School was showcased at the Roanoke County School Board meeting on April 14 – this month’s “School in the Spotlight.”
Principal Julie Sandzimier delivered a PowerPoint presentation pointing out the myriad of successful programs offered at HLH for all grade and ability levels.
Some of those programs she highlighted are:
- The “RISE” (Reading Inspires Students to Excel) program which offers an intense hour of reading instruction for students. The program involves Title I instructors and reading specialists providing a “powerful short-term intervention with targeted small-group instruction for reading comprehension, phonics and phonemic awareness, and guided writing.”
- The PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) program, now in its third year at Horn, which encourages HLH students (known as the Bees) to BEE Safe, BEE respectful, and BEE responsible. It’s a system-wide program that promotes a culture of kindness, respect, and responsibility. Morning meetings of 15-30 minutes are spent building communities within the classroom and building teams.
- School Spirit activities which have included the Title I Books and Ice cream program (free ice cream and free books), the “Character Ball,” based on favorite book characters, and the “One School, One Book” activity in which the entire school reads the same book. This year School Superintendent Dr. Ken Nicely, William Byrd High School Principal Tammy Newcomb, and members of the Vinton Police Department were recruited to read and record chapters of the book for students and their families.
Sandzimier next talked about Community Partnerships– always a big topic of conversation in Vinton. She talked about working with the Vinton Police Department, various churches, and especially families who volunteer and work for the school and its students through the PTA.
- The HLH PTA has donated playground equipment which has been installed and will soon be dedicated for the enjoyment of the students and the surrounding community.
- She mentioned the generosity of churches such as Midland Baptist that recently donated a vast number of shoes to the school for students in need.
- She also thanked Vinton Baptist Church for hosting the Boys and Girls Club after school program for students at HLH and W.E. Cundiff– at no charge.
- Sandzimier thanked the Vinton Breakfast Lions Club for donating the pavilion within the playground and track area; high school students for reading to students and other volunteer assignments, and businesses such as Kroger for their monetary donations.
She talked about the 4 Shifts Protocol– a series of online, active, hands-on sessions focusing on how to redesign classroom instruction for future-ready learning for deeper learning, more authentic work, and rich technology infusion.
Sandzimier drew special attention to HLH’s new STEM Lab, which will allow elementary school students to bridge the gap to the STEM learning that is the focus in middle and high schools.
She invited student Cora Shell to talk about the opportunities available at the school with the Lego Team, the Lego Club, Maker’s Monday, and the 3D Printing Club. Shell and other students distributed 3D Bees they had made using the newly acquired 3D printer as gifts for School Board members.
The 10 students on the HLH Lego Team competed recently at Roanoke College and received an award for the “best robot arm design” in the competition.
Sandzimier thanked her “amazing staff,” including assistant principal Theresa Kabath, for their efforts– “they are here for the children.”
She closed her presentation with a quotation from renowned educator Richard DuFour, “‘The school was not built so teachers have a place to teach; it was built so that the children of the community have a place to learn.’ That’s the heart of Herman L. Horn.”
Vinton’s representative to the School Board, Tim Greenway, said he was proud to showcase Herman L. Horn Elementary, its students, its administration, and its staff. He shared that he had been a student at HLH for two years and his grandchildren now attend the school.
School Board members thanked Sandzimier for her over-30 years of work in Roanoke County Schools. Several had worked with her in schools in their areas.
At the April 14 meeting, the School Board unanimously approved funding and a replacement schedule for playgrounds at the county’s elementary schools. Assistant Director of Facilities and Operations Harley Grimes briefed the board before the vote was taken, beginning with some history.
“Playgrounds at the 16 RCPS elementary schools have historically been funded and maintained via a variety of partnerships among individual schools, district resources, and parent groups,” Grimes said. “Playgrounds were inspected annually, and replacements were made as needed through these partnerships.
“At each school a minimum of one playground is needed for students ages 5-12 and one for preschool-age students. Additionally, schools, parent groups, and community partners have added additional components.
“In 2019, in order to establish a district standard for school system financial responsibility for replacing playground equipment, a replacement plan was established allocating $100,000 annually from Capital Maintenance Program (CMP) funds to replace equipment at one school per year. Although the plan was delayed in 2019-2020 due to economic uncertainties caused by the pandemic, the replacement plan was fully implemented in 2021 with replacements done at Burlington and Back Creek. In 2022, replacements at Glenvar and Mountain View are scheduled using CMP and Special Ed funds respectively.”
Grimes said that even with the current replacement plan, there are a number of schools where playground equipment has reached or will soon be reaching an age at which time normal replacement would be expected.
In order to accelerate the current pace of replacement of playground equipment, the School Board requested information about the age of current equipment and the expected years of replacement. This information was reviewed in two previous work sessions.
Grimes said, “Staff is recommending that the playground replacement schedule be accelerated as follows. In 2022, $100,000 will be allocated for each of seven schools to replace playgrounds based on age and condition of playgrounds as determined by staff and will include ADA inclusion needs. In 2023, $100,000 will be allocated for an additional seven schools. The funding source will be Minor Capital Reserves. In 2024, the annual $100,000 replacement plan will resume using CMP funds.”
For Vinton area schools, W.E. Cundiff and Bonsack playgrounds will receive the funding in 2022, Herman L. Horn and Mount Pleasant in 2023.
Grimes responded to an inquiry from a board member about the costs and bidding. He believes that RCPS may be able to get “a break” on prices due to the quantity of playgrounds being replaced each year. He noted that the replacement schedule is based on the age of existing playgrounds and that the plan is for the updated playground equipment to “fit the footprint of what is already there.”
School Board Chair David Linden said that he has been concerned about the inconsistency of the playgrounds across the county and while he is concerned about the $700,000 cost each year for two years, the work needs to be done.