Schools Earn Military Family “Seal of Approval”

Schools Earn Military Family “Seal of Approval”
Posted on 10/16/2019

Congratulations to Nansemond Parkway Elementary School and John Yeates Middle School for receiving the Virginia Distinguished Purple Star School designations for its strong support of military-connected students.  This award was announced recently by the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Council on the Interstate Compact on the Educational Opportunity of Military Children.

Nansemond Parkway Elementary and John Yeates Middle join Northern Shores Elementary School, who last year was one of the first Virginia schools to earn this designation.

The Purple Star designation will help guide military families to schools that have supports in place for children who change schools frequently because of military relocations.  The program is modeled after ones in Arkansas and Ohio.  Virginia is the third state to debut this “seal of approval” program.

The program is linked to a federal agreement, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The compact encourages flexibility as children move so they are not penalized by divisions’ requirement differences in such things as school start age, course offerings, and graduation requirements. 

A Department of Defense website for the compact says “the average military family moves three times more often than the average non-military family." Requirements for the designation include having a student-led transition team for new and leaving students, and points of contact at the school and district levels who undergo professional training, and a web page of resources for military families.

“The main benefit is received by the military connected student or transferring student. Schools who receive this award have demonstrated a practice of supporting the highly mobile student, explained Dan Dunham, Virginia’s military student and family specialist.  “These schools have provided evidence of strong peer transition support programs.  The school staff are knowledgeable of the unique needs of military students and how best to support them.”  

Close to 1,000 students in Suffolk Public Schools are connected to military families.  For that reason, the school division's Department of Student Services works closely with the area's military school liaison officer.  In fact, several SPS schools have been assigned full-time, school-based Military and Family Life Counselors to help military-connected families during the school day and throughout the school year.  These counselors help children and families with school adjustment, deployment and separation, reunion adjustment, sibling and parent-child communication, and behavioral concerns.  

John Yeates Middle School has a peer transition program, where Greet Squad students are paired with newly enrolled students for about 10 weeks to provide a first friend and information source at school.  Another student group, the Lunch Bunch, have planned two separate military care package drives to coincide with November as Military Family Appreciation Month and April as Month of the Military Child.  

Nansemond Parkway Elementary School will soon be starting an “Anchored-4-Life Club,” a peer-to-peer program to help military-connected students integrate into their community, and also help them learn important transition and resiliency skills.  The school will also be adding a military family album to its website.  Several teachers have also received professional development from the Virginia Department of Education on this topic.

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