Albemarle school leaders talk about legislative priorities

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A roundtable discussion between members of the Albemarle County School Board and local legislators happened at Albemarle Tech on Friday afternoon to lay out the legislative priorities for the 2019 General Assembly session.

Legislators that attended the meeting included Delegate Steve Landes, who represents the 25th District, Delegate David Toscano, who represents the 57th District, and state Senator Creigh Deeds.

The group talked about priorities including funding for public education, high school redesign, broadband infrastructure and school safety.

The group toured Albemarle Tech to see how high school redesign allows students to have a learning experience outside the classroom.

Landes said he's interested in expanding these opportunities to modernize school curriculums.

"More importantly, learning what we might be able to do from the standpoint of policy in Richmond to make sure we're implementing the opportunities for juniors and seniors with the high school redesign, so that they can have more internship opportunities and mentorship opportunities," he said.

Another priority for the school division is safety with a focus on student mental health.

Dr. Matthew Haas, superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools, said they've already been working to expand mental health resources in their schools.

"We did, going into this year, add two mental health counselors through Region 10 to our high school programs and we'd like to continue to phase that in at the middle school level," Haas said.

The school division added a new mental health curriculum that goes beyond Standards of Quality requirements and is financed by local funds.

School leaders are asking for state funding to help provide the resources they'll need to fund staff coverage related to school safety, which Toscano said is a big possibility in the upcoming budget.

"Fortunately, we're going to have some more money I think in this upcoming budget for mental health counselors that will help service youngsters in crisis," said Toscano.

He said they're still working on recommendations to include in the final report for December.

This final report will include legislative bills and recommendations for what the budget should look like next year.

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