With open houses set to take place this week, new teachers oriented and fall sports workouts already underway, it’s time for Floyd County students to face the music: another school year is about to begin. While local kids may be anticipating the first day next week with bittersweet nostalgia for their summer breaks, Dr. John Wheeler, superintendent of Floyd County Public Schools (FCPS), expressed nothing but enthusiasm for the upcoming year.

The 2019-2020 school year will represent the third in a six-year vision championed by Wheeler. In a letter to the Floyd County community, Wheeler emphasized the role that partnerships—particularly with local institutions of higher learning—could play in supporting students. “We are strengthening our partnerships with Virginia Tech, Radford University, New River Community College and our own area businesses to explore internship and degree program opportunities,” Wheeler said.

These partnerships support two goals of the district’s six-year vision: first, to increase instructional resources and professional development and second, to bolster educational experiences with “a focus on local, state and global job skills necessary to develop college and career-ready citizens.”

As part of this emphasis on job skill development, Wheeler hopes to align graduation requirements with the programs of local universities and businesses, as well as to make headway on a Collaboration & Career Development Center (CCDC), the funds for which the Floyd County School Board approved in January of this year. The Board of Supervisors approved the project as well, and is currently completing finance applications, according to Assistant Superintendent of Instruction & Innovation Jessica Cromer.

Per prior reporting by the Press, the CCDC will include instructional space for welding and machining, culinary arts and health sciences, and will supplement the existing Career & Technical Education facility at Floyd County High School. “What has happened in the last few years is that the workforce skills in entry-level jobs have changed drastically in our state and in our area,” Wheeler said in explaining the goals of the CCDC. “This center is going to allow us to attract businesses and the workforce development we need, and partner with local universities to offer programs that do not exist currently in our schools … This is going to help us for many generations to come.”

Outside of career and economic development, Wheeler said FCPS is hoping to foster an environment that “allows students to feel safe and allows for the forming of relationships that lets students know they are cared for and that our staff wants them to succeed.” His mission for equity in student success has an emphasis on literacy, and in his letter he reminded the community that free resource backpacks are available for any three-, four- or five-year-old resident of Floyd County. The very first goal listed in the FCPS six-year vision is to “focus on early childhood education by reinforcing our efforts so we identify the underserved population and increase services.”

Sixteen new teachers will join the ranks of FCPS this year. “Several are returning to Floyd and several are graduates of Floyd County High School who are choosing to start their careers in their hometown,” Cromer said. The first day of school for Floyd County students is next Tuesday, Aug. 13.

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