At a lengthy Charlottesville City School Board meeting following a teacher sickout that led to Charlottesville High School being closed for three days, Superintendent Royal Gurley promised a number of changes and commitments coming to the high school.

More about fighting at Charlottesville High School

Among those changes, Gurley listed out multiple steps he has and will take. Most of them involve simply devoting more resources and attention to the school and its students. He is personally spending more time there, he's brought in a new temporary principal and he's making it a priority to fill staffing vacancies.

He also spoke broadly about improving school “culture” and being more transparent with the community, something community members have been calling for at multiple community meetings since the closure.

“We will make our communications clearer and more transparent,” said Gurley. “That starts tonight, with this presentation, and the detailed information on our website.”

The work to better resource the school has already started, Gurley said. City Schools hired two science teachers who will start work after winter break at CHS, and another staffer to manage the front doors of the high school. 

“We also spent time in the halls of CHS this fall to offer support,” said Gurley at the Dec. 7 meeting. “But the bottom line is that, in retrospect, it is clear that I should have done a lot more for CHS a lot sooner.”

More community members are also volunteering to monitor halls between classes, he said. And it's made a difference. Students and teachers from CHS who spoke with Collectbritain mentioned that some of the students involved in many of the fights at the school are the same ones who often roam the hallways in between classes. Many of those students, Gurley said, are no longer walking the halls, or in consideration for alternative education options.

For anyone interested in volunteering to be a hall monitor (or in some other role), here's City Schools' explanation of how community members can become volunteers.

“We are talking about our youth, not criminals. There have been no weapons involved in any of these fights,” said Gurley. “We’ve seen boys fight one another and girls fight one another. We’re talking about mostly fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds with a lot to learn about how to resolve their differences.”

On Nov. 17, ten CHS teachers called in sick in protest of the numerous fights within the school. And with six ongoing staff vacancies and additional “normal” staff absences, Gurley canceled classes at CHS for three days.

Twenty-two fights, which involved 46 students, have occurred in CHS this year alone, according to Gurley.

There have been two listening sessions since the sick out, the most recent on Nov. 30. Gurley said many of the commitments he's made are based on the feedback from concerned community members.

“Fighting in school is unacceptable — period. And it is up to us, the adults, to make that clear. These are our children, and they need our guidance, our boundaries, and our unconditional care,” said Gurley. “Only with this support from us can they find a new path and reach their fullest potential.”

Editor's note: This article was updated Dec. 12, at 4 p.m. to include a quote from Superintendent Royal Gurley in which he promises the district will be more transparent with parents and community members.

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I'm Collectbritain's education and families reporter. Reach out to me by email or on Twitter. Also, subscribe to our newsletter! C’mon, it’s free.