Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) has been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Educational Partnership Program to support military-connected students and their families attending schools in the division.
The grant is intended to fund a military student counseling program, a military-connected child professional development program, and a K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) support program to increase school-wide support programs for military dependent students to increase preparedness for students in STEM-related careers, according to the DoDEA.
The funding given to the Virginia Beach school system is part of more than $35 million the DoDEA awarded to 26 military-connected public school districts this year to strengthen family-school-community relationships and enhance student achievement for military-connected students.
Over the past years, VBCPS has established several initiatives that have addressed the needs of military-connected students and their families. The division’s Office of Community Relations, a branch of the Department of Media and Communications Development, has partnered with John Hopkins University to provide training to school staff on strategies to assist military-connected students. In addition, the school system has maintained consistent working relationships with military family representatives from nearby military bases in an effort to consistently collaborate on services and programs that benefit military children and their families.
“Ours is a school district with a large military population. Consequently, our teachers and administrators deal regularly with the unique needs of children from military families. So often, we witness those children facing parental deployments as well as the academic and social issues that come with changing schools frequently. We know there is more we can do to increase their academic achievement. The key is providing support that is meaningful to them, training our teachers and guidance staff in strategies that will help them better understand the needs of these special children and ensuring that we foster their development of 21st century skills, particularly in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Receipt of this grant puts Virginia Beach Schools in a much better position to positively affect the success of the children whose families have made the defense of this country their chosen career,” said Virginia Beach Superintendent James G. Merrill.
Meeting the needs of military children effectively has long been a goal of Merrill’s. In 2009, then-Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine appointed him to serve on the Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunities for Military Children. Today, Merrill still serves on that committee which is now named the Virginia Military Council.
DoDEA consists of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools located overseas and the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools located in the United States and its territories and possessions. The agency provides services to military and civilian dependents from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.