Determined to return to in-person instruction, a plan created by the team and approved by the board and the Health Department, PPS began the school year with precautions for social distancing and amped up cleaning measures to keep everyone safe. We all wore masks, sat behind plexiglass dividers in our classrooms, and avoided hugs – that was hard! There were only a few cases of the virus identified, and 1 school-wide closer for 2 weeks, and lots of quarantining to help keep us all safe. And again, God’s blessings provided for our health and amazing level of giving from our donors to sustain us another year!
The year began with a team of new leadership and several new teachers, all committed to serving in their walk of faith. There were 83 students enrolled in grades 3-8. We were blessed over and over with God’s abundance and grace. The owners of The Dirty Buffalo donated 100 new Chromebooks at Christmas time; I’m Train Ready provided meals for holidays and beyond, Norfolk Academy students volunteer offered weekly tutoring. The BeAR (Be A Reader) program was in full-stride. Each classroom was supported by college interns from ODU and NSU. Churches increased their involvement and commitment to partnership.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world. And like schools across Virginia, we were forced to close to in-person instruction. Over a single weekend, the academic team executed a plan for virtual instruction, which continued for the remainder of the school year. God provided and our school and students thrived!
This year saw record numbers of volunteers playing important roles in the school – from tutoring, to classroom aids, to art. In addition, the school received a generous grant that enabled us to purchase our own school bus! Thank you Jay Pharoah! The school added 7th grade for our rising 6th graders this year, which was followed by a large outcry for 8th grade at year’s end! The Board of Directors heard their pleas and approved the addition of 8th grade, for a current offering of grades of 3 – 8 and a capacity of 90 students. We are grateful to Aimee Phillips who lead the school for 3 years and made a difficult decision to take another offer at the end of the school year.
We relocated the school to the education wing at Beth El Synagogue and strengthened our partnership with New Life Church. We officially began our middle school by adding 6th grade to our program and opened our roster up to 15 students per class. Our overall capacity was 75 students. We added a Global Studies course as a resource class for everyone and a GoogleDocs and Life Skills course and a Drama course through Cason Acting Company for our 6th grade. Volunteers from Beth El support our program through creative writing, the BeAR program, and weekly interactions with our students. Additionally, The FOCUS center provided interns from ODU and NSU this year.
Additional partnerships were added to our program. Regent University, EVMS, ODU, U.S. Navy, computer class, The Y on Granby, Compass Youth Services,the National Institute for Learning Development, New Life Church, Christ the Redeemer Church, Ghent Area Ministries, and WAVE City Care were all involved in helping make our year a wonderful success. Transportation services were added to enable us to reach students in other neighborhoods in Norfolk.
Second grade was added to our program. Additional Chromebooks were purchased allowing us to become a 1:1 school.
We began the school year with 34 students and added fifth grade. We have been so blessed to have received grants to help us have great amenities. Our technology has been upgraded to help teachers with instruction and students to benefit from these innovations. We’ve been able to purchase excellent materials to support a STEM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Additionally, The Academy of Music has begun a violin program with PPS students.
The doors were once again opened with 23 students in third and fourth grades and a new instructional and administrative team. A first, we partnered with Norfolk Public Schools to refer students and provide curricular materials. We look forward to hard work and success for these young learners.
Park Place School took a sabbatical year to evaluate their program. The Board recruited local education leaders to develop a plan for implementing a new program for at-risk children in Norfolk. The idea was to again begin with the third grade and have in place a team of teachers, aides, and volunteers who could provide small group settings and intense instruction focused on basic math and language skills – in an environment promoting strong Christian principles.
We realized that the earlier students began an intervention program, the more likely improvements could be seen. The class entering 2004 were third graders. When they completed the program in 2007, they also made some remarkable gains in both achievement scores but also in ability as measured through intelligence tests. Our 2007 student body began in a combined second/third grade. Students continued to realize significant gains in achievement and ability.
2001 was Park Place School’s first year of operation with two fourth grade classes, each with 12 students. At completion of the three year-program the first class of students had an average gain of 40% points in math, 28% points in reading, and 18% points in spelling. This was an extraordinary accomplishment.
Park Place United Methodist Church donated two floors of their educational building to the school. In six months, the Board of Directors raised over $300,000 to renovate the donated space. Construction began on classrooms, resource rooms, administrative offices, and the library. The church educational building became a day school ready to serve the Park Place neighborhood.
From 1996 through 1999 our pilot project – ‘Project Rebound’ targeted 10 students who improved their test scores in the core subjects for reading, math, and spelling an average of just over 20 percentage points. The students came from Norfolk Public School middle schools and were reading on the second grade level. After completion of our three-year pilot project our students were re-enrolled back into Norfolk Public Schools working at/or above grade level. All of the students which attended ‘Project Rebound’ graduated from high school.