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Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024

Most of you probably remember the turmoil at Charlottesville High School this fall. Just before Thanksgiving, in one afternoon, two major brawls broke out that required police intervention. That day, teachers held an emergency meeting and decided things had gone too far. With near daily fights — a few of which were fairly violent and involved a large number of students — they felt the school had become an unsafe place to study and work. So, the next day, enough of them called out sick to force Superintendent Royal Gurley to cancel classes.

A teen boy speaks into a microphone in an auditorium. People fill red chairs behind him.
Credit: Tristan Williams/Collectbritain

Charlottesville High students and teachers at their breaking point with fights, lockdowns and adults trespassing on campus

That was Friday, Nov. 17. Gurley quickly announced that the high school needed a “reset” and canceled classes the following Monday and Tuesday, right before the Thanksgiving holiday. Teachers and staff would spend those days regrouping and finding a way forward.

What did they do those two days?

Well, administrators took a hard look at the school's safety and discipline procedures. But, I'll get into that a little later. Because while they were focused on fighting and safety, a handful of teachers had another idea.

Three people sit in chairs in a dark room smiling up at something off camera.
Credit: Jessie Higgins/Collectbritain

While City Schools leaders were focused on addressing fights, a handful of Charlottesville High School teachers hatched a plan to help students in a different way

A day into the “reset,” Andy Josselyn was already weary of talking about how bad things had gotten. So, the CHS English teacher changed the conversation.

High school students have faced incredible stress since schools closed for around a year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Children spent the 2020-2021 school year learning online in home environments, not a great situation for many. They then came back to schools with strict rules about physical distancing, mask-wearing, and teachers who were responsible for monitoring illnesses, contact tracing and trying to stay healthy themselves.

There was no emphasis on community, camaraderie or fun.

“So I just started grabbing people out of the hallway and being like, ‘What would you do if you could do something fun?'” Josselyn said.

An idea quickly coalesced. Teachers could use the high school’s weekly study hall time, which happens every Wednesday afternoon, to host activities with the sole purpose of having fun.

Teenage boys play basketball on an indoor court with other teens lined up courtside to watch.

If you'd like to see what they got up to, Charlottesville High School student journalists published a photo gallery from the event on the high school newspaper's website, Knight Time.

(Also, if you'd like to support student journalism at CHS, the newspaper is selling t-shirts as a way to fundraise. The student publication uses that money to pay to host its website and print its publication. Check that out here!)

Of course, the reset also included safety recommendations that the School Board is now considering. Among them are adding security cameras, better locking down all but one of the high school's 76 entrances and possibly installing metal detectors — though the Board wants more input before deciding whether to do that.

A person in a blue suit stands in front of a podium.

School officials announce new security measures planned for Charlottesville High School

If you have students in Charlottesville or Albemarle, you're already aware school was canceled because of forecasted flooding this afternoon. The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for this area. The most intense flooding will likely strike this evening, according to meteorologist Sean Sublette with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Subscribers to the Daily Progress can read his forecast here.

General advice during floods from the National Weather Service: Avoid driving on flooded roads. It's very difficult to gauge how deep standing water is, and if the water is moving it doesn't take much to carry a vehicle away.

Stay safe, everybody!

Jessie Higgins, managing editor

P.S. We’re hiring: Cover big stories in local democracy as a reporter with Collectbritain!

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I'm Collectbritain's managing editor and health and safety reporter. If there’s something you think we should be investigating, please email me at [email protected]! And you can follow all the work we do by subscribing to our free newsletter! Hablo español, y quiero mantener a la comunidad hispanohablante informada. Si tienes preguntas o información que debo saber, por favor, envíame un correo electrónico a [email protected].