Charlottesville City Schools: Marked by Excellence, Innovation, and Community
The City of Charlottesville highly values education, shown in its strong Charlottesville City Schools. With an enrollment of 4022, the division offers six neighborhood elementary schools (preschool-4); one upper elementary school (grades 5-6); one middle school (grades 7-8) and one high school. The schools are marked by their commitment to excellence, innovation, and community.
Every school is fully accredited within Charlottesville City Schools, one of only 36 divisions in Virginia to accomplish this feat in 2013-14. Similarly, on the SAT test, CCS students outperform their peers statewide and nationally by wide margins. Charlottesville High School offers more than 30 college-level courses, and CHS students earn scores of 3 or higher on 74 percent of their Advanced Placement exams. Outside the classroom, students demonstrate academic excellence in many ways. Already this year, the Scholastic Bowl/Pop Quiz team has placed first in the nation in two different competitions! The science club BACON (Best All-Around Club of Nerds) placed fourth nationally in the Zero Robotics competition (where their coding operated robotic satellites on the International Space Station). The Debate Club has logged a string of tournament victories, with 10 students qualifying for the state competition.
Charlottesville City Schools are also committed to excellence in the arts. The high school orchestra is internationally acclaimed with a planned summer tour of France; at a 2013 competition in New York, the group won “Best Overall.” Similarly, the high school band was one of ten selected to perform in Governor McAuliffe’s inaugural parade. At Buford Middle School, a full 56 students qualified for all-district band or regional orchestra. Walker Upper Elementary students recently offered an inspiring presentation of Peter Pan, and from March 21-23, the high school’s spring musical will be Sweeney Todd, with sets designed by sophomore Daniel Neale, winner for Scenic Design at the 2013 Virginia Theatre Conference. Artists at Buford and CHS have earned state and national acclaim.
CCS student-athletes achieve excellence, as well. The football team, coached by the area’s Public School Coach of the Year, has made back-to-back play-off appearances, while the boys’ basketball team is a perennial stand-out. The golf team enjoyed what the Daily Progress called “a magical season,” and the field hockey team dominated the regular season (13-2-1).
Innovation Excellence is sustained by innovation. Committed to research-based best practices, Charlottesville City Schools is an early adapter of trends and technology. The brand-new science labs at Buford Middle School and CHS are in partnership with the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Curry School of Education. The partnership teaches science through the lens of engineering, supported by technology such as 3-D printers. Faculty and students from U.Va. have also introduced engineering to the City’s younger students at special in-school activities and events. Aside from 3-D printers, technology is important in all classes. All City students work with laptops, i-pads, smartboards and other technology, and beginning in sixth grade, students receive their own tablets. CCS has also been a leader in virtual education, with 26 credit classes available to students in Charlottesville and other communities.
Aside from technology, City schools innovate in other ways. Beginning in kindergarten, children study Spanish so that all sixth-graders take Spanish 1 for high-school credit. The City Schools’ emphasis on world languages also includes AP-level Mandarin. CCS partners with other groups for inventive programming, such as the City Schoolyard Gardens’ outdoor garden-classrooms or the Richmond Ballet’s “Minds in Motion” activities for fourth-graders. For two years, the Paramount Theatre has invited artist Kevin Reese to help CHS and Buford students create stunning Calder-style mobiles for their schools and the community (at the Downtown Transit Station and the Smith Aquatic Center). CCS also offers progressive preschool programs, with classes for qualifying children as young as three and a highly successful record of preparing at-risk students for kindergarten.
Excellence and innovation occur in a diverse and strong community. Charlottesville City Schools prepares many students to follow in their parents’ steps by attending elite universities, but CCS also assists first-time college attenders to blaze a trail for their own families. While the City schools offer classes in French, German, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish, in addition, they teach English to students who speak Arabic, Burmese, Krahn, and Nepali, just to name a few of languages spoken at home by students. Each year, CHS hosts “Celebrate Diversity,” which invites students – both native Virginians and immigrants from around the globe – to sing, dance, read poetry, and offer other tributes to world cultures.
The City’s neighborhood elementary schools nurture lifelong friendships, yet also equip children to welcome new people into an ever-changing community. Since August, CCS has welcomed325 new students who have moved to the community, and an additional 300 students from other divisions choose to attend our schools. Neighborhood schools with a global orientation expose City students to a wide variety of experiences, viewpoints, and opportunities—preparing them not only for post-secondary education but also for life.