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Taking care of military kids, academically and socially

Virginia Beach Public Schools cited for helping military-connected students adapt, thrive in school.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — About 30 percent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools' 70,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade come from military families.

The division is being recognized for the ground-breaking work it has done to help those children succeed, in and out of the classroom.

Being a military kid isn't easy, academically or socially, with all the moves and all the deployments. Nobody knows that better than the parents, teachers, administrators, and students at Shelton Park Elementary.

About 70 percent of the student body here is military-connected, making this the number one military school in Virginia Beach.

"Last night a parent called my cell phone," said Principal Tara Brewer. "She said, 'so and so may not have her homework because her dad has duty and I'm away. Just to understand Dad has duty.' That's unique to Shelton Park. That's not going to happen at every school."

Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence said military children are special.

"I think it's just part of the culture of Virginia Beach," he said. "We're a proud military community and a proud military school system. Thirty percent of our students are military-connected. We're proud of that fact and intentional about serving their needs and the needs of their families."

Spence said there is no magic formula. It's just doing things that make sense, like getting to know each of the students individually. The school also provides extra assistance, where needed, with special assets like military family life counselors.

"We're very intentional about getting to know each child and trying to build a strong relationship with that child," he said. "We're also very intentional about understanding the needs of military children."

On Wednesday, national and local officials gathered at Shelton Park to highlight best practices being employed here, ensuring military-connected students receive the best education possible and make transitions both into and out of the district as seamless as possible.

The effort is very much appreciated.

"A huge part of mission readiness is family readiness," said Naval Air Station Oceana Commanding Officer CAPT Chad Vincellete. "We can do that in a variety of ways. But a large part o that is the relationship we have with the Virginia Beach school system, and how well they take care of our students."

Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story Commanding Officer CAPT Joey Frantzen is likewise impressed.

"For them, it's about caring," he said. "It's about the individual kid. They're amazing."

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