Woodhill Elementary School in Gastonia will receive $2.8 million over the next three school years as part of a federal School Improvement Grant.
Woodhill and Pleasant Ridge Elementary were the only schools in Gaston County listed among the bottom 5 percent of schools in the state. Last year, only 30.5 percent of Woodhill students scored at or above grade level in reading and 55.9 percent of students earned a passing score in math in End of Grade tests. Pleasant Ridge students saw 44.1 percent of students score at or above grade level in reading and 64.5 percent of students score proficient in math.
The district applied for the grant using a turnaround model. That means:
- A new principal
- Rehiring no more than half of the staff
- Adding 30 minutes to the school day
- focusing on literacy and math
- Increasing technology so there are as many laptops as students in grades 3 through 5
Principal Jacob Barr moves to Pinewood Elementary in Mount Holly next school year. York Chester Middle Principal Cindy Hester will take the helm at Woodhill.
Small groups and different learning techniques will be used to teach math and literacy, said Lory Morrow, deputy superintendent of instruction. In reading, students will start out at a level where they are comfortable and progress up a level as they gain comprehension. A learning center style will be used to teach math with small groups rotating through activities.
Many of the details of transforming the school haven't been finalized yet, said Morrow. The district wants to be able to provide library books to build up home libraries and also send home math learning games and activities. It also wants to provide backpacks with school supplies to take away anxiety about having the wrong items.
"We want to make sure they have everything they need to be successful," Morrow said. "We are doing something new. We are doing something different."