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The new school year starts Wednesday for the Louisa County Public School system just before the one-year anniversary of the magnitude-5.8 earthquake that devastated the community.
"We're feeling like we're almost back to normal," said school Superintendent Deborah Pettit.
She said the summer had been short and extremely busy as repairs and construction have been under way at all six schools.
Louisa County High and Thomas Jefferson Elementary schools had structural damage in the Aug. 23 quake last year and were shut down. Both will be rebuilt with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and donations. But for now, classes will continue to be held in modular buildings.
An additional modular unit was added at Thomas Jefferson Elementary to house the kindergarten program and school nurse, as well as adult restrooms, Pettit said.
At the high school, she said, the planning and permitting process are nearly complete. Construction should begin soon for the parking lot, tennis courts, automotive trades building and the culinary arts classroom addition to the concession stand.
But Pettit said that despite all of the construction work, educators remain focused on academics.
"Our theme for this year is Louisa Courageous," she said. " It defines who Louisa County, as a community and a school division, was during last year, but also points to our future as we courageously face rebuilding efforts and maximize teaching and learning in our modular schools."
She said teachers, administrators and other staff have been revising curriculum and updating pacing guidelines, with a new online version for the elementary level.
She said test scores remained stable or exceeded those for previous years, except in math, and that shows the teachers kept students learning while recovering from a disaster.
As for math, she said, school leaders will work together to help students think and reason at higher levels while ensuring they have enough practice for the new math SOL tests. Petit said school divisions across the state also saw a drop in math scores due to a new testing format that included questions involving higher level thinking and multiple steps.
"That challenge will extend to the areas of science and English as our students face revision to those tests next spring," she said.
Pettit said details will soon be released on how the school system will handle the Aug. 23 anniversary. It likely will include a tour of the schools with education and emergency officials as well as a districtwide earthquake drill.
"Our courage will carry us through Aug. 23--the anniversary of the earthquake--as we recall the moment, express gratitude that we avoided severe injuries and deaths, continue to thank all of those who helped us in so many ways to recover and look ahead to a year focused on teaching and learning."
Portsia Smith: 540/374-5419