June 26, 2008

School Board Explores Change in Its Drug Policy

By Anna L. Mallory [email protected] 381-8627

Next school year, the Montgomery County School Board wants to start reviewing cases after a student's first drug-related problem reported at school. Board member Penny Franklin has proposed the policy change.

Federal law says that students caught with drugs are to be expelled immediately, unless school boards find a "special circumstance." But Franklin said that too often, expulsion proposals come before the board that make her wonder why the seven- member panel hasn't heard about the student's case earlier.

That's because years ago, the board changed its policy to allow school principals the authority to handle first-time offenses, deeming those the "special circumstance," board attorney Brad King said.

What's happened, board members said, is a lax policy that's hurting the school system.

Franklin said the change would require more effort and time from the board, but it is likely to send a zero-tolerance message.

King plans to draft a change in the policy that should go before the board in August. If the policy isn't adopted, school principals will be expected to find new ways to make certain everyone -- teachers, parents and students -- understand that students can't even possess over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen, in the schools, board Chairman Wendell Jones said. All medicine must be distributed by the school nurse.

The push to publicize the school's drug policy better came about because board member Jamie Bond said older students don't recognize that over-the-counter medicines can be considered drugs.

The changes aren't expected to be voted on until August.

Dayspring Academy to open second campus

Dayspring Christian Academy expects to have more than 200 students next fall, and to make room the school is opening a school in Christiansburg for juniors and seniors. The second campus for the Blacksburg-based school will be at Dwelling Place Christian Fellowship on North Franklin Street. It will have five classrooms and an office.

Dayspring Principal Dug Hampton said the new campus will allow a more "college-style" class schedule. The students will take 80- minute classes three days a week and have other classes, such as science labs, on the off days, Hampton said.

Details about transportation to the branch campus are expected to be finalized at school board meetings this summer, he said.

The school has been looking at creating a second campus for a couple of years, he said. And, with 70 students in its ninth- through-12th-grade high school, the need was imminent, he said.

The Blacksburg campus has 16 classrooms, but the elementary grades take up much of that space. The school tries to have classes no larger than 12 students, Hampton said.

Salvation Army preparing children's backpacks

The New River Valley Salvation Army is looking for school supplies to stuff into children's backpacks for its annual back-to- school drive.

The Salvation Army will accept applications for the free bags through July 17.

Anyone on government assistance and other low-income residents are eligible, but they must bring proof of income to the offices from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The offices are at 760 Roanoke St. in Christiansburg.

Parents also must bring a year-end report card and identification for each child.

Supplies, such as notebooks and pens, will be accepted until July 26. The bags will be distributed Aug. 12-14.

Last year, 757 students in the valley received bags, social worker Shawn Elliott said.

Anna L. Mallory covers events and issues affecting Montgomery County schools and beyond. If you have information you'd like featured, e-mail [email protected]

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