Home Waynesboro Schools ‘making lemonade out of lemons’ with new program for special ed
Local, Schools

Waynesboro Schools ‘making lemonade out of lemons’ with new program for special ed

Rebecca Barnabi
school classroom teacher
(© Syda Productions – stock.adobe.com)

The closing of a 47-year-old special education day school in Staunton is requiring Waynesboro Schools to make a plan for students.

The unplanned expense, however, is expected to provide benefits for the school system’s special education students and other students.

In a capital improvement plan update by Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Cassell at Waynesboro School Board’s regular Tuesday meeting, Cassell explained the unplanned expense.

The school system received state funding for construction and renovations in recent years, including the replacement of HVAC systems.

Renovations are complete at Berkeley Glenn and Wenonah elementary schools and Wayne Hills Center.

“All of our buildings have new roofs or roofs that are good for at least the next 15 years,” Cassell said.

The school system has no other capital improvement needs anticipated for at least the next 10 years, except completing renovations at Waynesboro High School.

Cassell said he wants to obtain accurate estimates for renovations at the high school before submitting an updated capital improvement plan to the school board for approval, which he hopes to do at the board’s December meeting.

Unexpected expenses for the school system now include the need for two modular units installed behind BGES for the purpose of housing the school system’s new special needs program for elementary students.

The special needs students have been housed in Staunton at Pygmalion School, a private education day school founded in 1976 as an essential support to People Places treatment foster care program.

Six Waynesboro students attended the school, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ryan Barber. Pygmalion will close operations on December 15, 2023.

“They’re our students and it’s our responsibility to take care of them,” Barber said.

He added that the school system has wanted for years to provide a program of its own for the students.

With guidance from the Commonwealth, Waynesboro Schools will contract staff from Pygmalion and “bring them on our team,” Barber said. Their salaries will be paid for by the state for one year.

“It’s a really great opportunity for us,” Barber said.

The desire is for Waynesboro students with special needs to attend a Waynesboro School. The modular units will provide a temporary solution for the remainder of the 2023-2024 school year until a permanent solution is found.

“We’re making lemonade out of lemons,” Barber said.

Waynesboro Schools learned of the need to house the students just a month ago. Cassell said a building will be leased for the rest of 2023 until the modular units are ready.

The students’ presence on Waynesboro Schools campus will provide them the benefits of eating in the school cafeteria, visiting the educational farm and attending field trips with other students.

“I think this is going to improve the educational experience for our students,” Barber said.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.