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It's nothing new for Galax schools to be fully accredited, based on Standards of Learning scores, and this ability to exceed the required SOL benchmarks allows the system to create new and innovative programs.
“If the state benchmark for elementary history is 50 percent, and we're at 99 percent, we have accomplished just about all we can with that,” said Galax Superintendent Bill Sturgill. “This allows us to broaden ourselves beyond SOLs. We're just excited about innovation, new concepts and ideas and keeping programs that will keep Galax a system of choice.”
Since Galax schools surpassed SOL benchmarks in all categories, Sturgill said the system can ensure that students also excel in other areas and extra-curricular activities, by maintaining and implementing new programs.
This year, Galax Elementary began a new reading program that enriches children at all reading levels. A math specialist has also been hired at Galax Middle School to assist students with math skills.
Also, Galax High School started a SAT preparation course — with 40 students enrolled — to push for excellent scores on the aptitude tests. It is required that all GHS 10th grade students take the PSAT, in which all the exams are funded by the school system.
The five-year plan for the schools also incorporates a focus on extra-curricular activities.
“Extra-curricular activities are important, and it's important for students to be a part of them,” said Sturgill. “Winning may be a good thing, but more important is having quality coaches, and that's a focus.”
Sturgill said it's the partnership between the community, city council, school board and the educational system that allows Galax schools to be progressive and create new and expand existing programs. Because of funding support from the city, he said, it has allowed the system to maintain and hire quality teaching staff.
It was recently announced that Galax schools will receive $326,797 from the federal Education Jobs Fund, which is strictly for salaries, retaining and rehiring teachers.
Since Galax schools will not have to bridge any funding gaps, “it allows us to look at creativity, new programs, summer [programs] and before- and after-school programs in art, fitness and instruction,” said Sturgill.
Galax schools have not made official plans for the funds, but administrators are in the discussion and planning process.
“We have a lot of good things going on in this unique mountain school system. There's not a school system in America that we can't send our kids to,” said Sturgill, noting that 90 percent of its graduating classes have gone on to college, and some were accepted to Wake Forest University, Duke University and the University of Virginia.