Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin was on hand Aug. 5 to officially open the state's Mecklenburg County Middle School and High School. While there, he used the occasion to ceremonially sign legislation that will provide more than $1 billion in school construction funds for K-12 public education.
"These schools demonstrate how a community can come together not only to build a state-of-the-art facility but to invest in their children and transform their workforce," he said in his remarks. "And through the bipartisan coalition that unanimously advanced these bills, we are delivering on our commitment to support vibrant, 21st century educational environments across the Commonwealth. This is what happens when we put our students first; we're getting it done together."
House Bill 563, sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Israel O'Quinn, R-Washington, and Senate Bill 473, put forth sponsored by Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, will support $400 million in grants to be distributed based on student enrollment and local needs as well as another $450 million in competitive grants for new construction, expansion and modernization projects for high-need schools in partnership with local school boards.
According to the Augusta Free Press in Waynesboro, Va., McClellan also sponsored SB 471, a $400 million loan for school construction and make added improvements to the administration of the Literary Fund Construction Loan Program.
"This shift in Virginia's approach to school construction is a big deal for school divisions across the Commonwealth, but particularly in Southwest Virginia," noted O'Quinn, who stands for the area in the state General Assembly. "Having new schools built across the state ultimately means that the real winners are students."
McClellan added, "The new School Construction Fund and enhanced Literary Fund loans will lay the groundwork to fix Virginia's crumbling school infrastructure. Our children cannot learn in crumbling schools, and Virginia's investments in school modernization cannot wait."
Discussion Looked for Ways to Build Lab Schools
The Free Press reported Aug. 7 that Youngkin also took part in a roundtable talk in the eastern part of the state at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) in Mecklenburg County to discuss lab school efforts in Southside and the needs of the region's students and economy.
"[SVCC] is thrilled to build upon its strong partnership with Mecklenburg County Public Schools through our plan to launch the first lab school in the Commonwealth's community college system under Gov. Youngkin's leadership," said Quentin R. Johnson, president of SVCC. "By allowing community colleges and higher education centers to lead lab schools, the governor and General Assembly ensured that students across the Commonwealth can benefit from these innovative options."
Participants shared their ideas on building a lab school at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston that will expand upon its Career Tech Academy through employability skills. The discussion also touched on expanding the Danville-based Institute for Advanced Learning and Research's GO TEC middle school career connections and exploration program.
"Yesterday's tour and roundtable demonstrated that when our public schools' partner with higher education and the private sector, an innovative academic model is developed providing our students with multiple pathways to obtain industry certifications in high-demand fields," said House Education Chairman Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach.
"It is clear that Virginia's lab school initiative will provide the flexibility and funding necessary to foster this type of learning environment [and give them] an opportunity to receive an education that prepares them for a 21st Century career right out of high school."
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