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SV Rural Charter School celebrating 20th birthday

By AMBER MORRIS

For The Express

LOGANTON — This year marks an important birthday for the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School in Loganton, as the school celebrates its 20th year in providing quality education in a rural surrounding.

Two decades isn’t too bad for a school that was once only a dream and an idea in the hearts and minds of the community that it sits in.

The school proudly promotes an atmosphere of elevated moral standards, outstanding teachers, small class sizes, environmental and agriculture awareness, and encourages school-wide community involvement. The typical SVRCS graduate goes out into the world with a unique, high quality education, knowing that helping our neighbors and being kind is as important as any other skill learned in school.

SVRCS Chief Executive Officer Tracie Kennedy, explains the curricula used to foster this ideology.

“For three years we have been implementing a program called PBIS, or Positive Behavior Interventions and Support, which is a framework for improving student performance. PBIS focuses on improving behavior, academics and social and emotional needs through clear expectations and positive affirmation,” she continued. “These expectations are supported by the acronym RISE, which stands for Responsibility, Integrity, Safety and Engagement. Qualities in both PBIS and RISE are instructed and reinforced across our Kindergarten to twelfth grade continuum, and by having all activities in every grade level following and supporting these expectations, we have become a unified school community with a more positive culture.”

As Pennsylvania’s first rural charter school of its type, the SVRCS has always strived to offer new and innovative learning experiences for every student who attends the farmland campus, and this year are expanding their business and computer/technology classes.

“Our technology team has been focusing on blended learning, by using face-to-face teaching combined with technology, to our teachers,” said Kennedy. “We are a one-to-one school with Google Chromebooks and they have become an essential part of our students’ daily learning. Our student body continues to advance educationally in Envirothon, Future Business Leaders of America, District Band and Chorus, Science Olympiad, FFA, and National Honors Society. SVRCS and the community continues to be proud of the hard work and success that many students achieve by earning high honor roll and honor roll for their academic accomplishments.”

Even though the school boasts its technology based courses, some of the things that they are teaching, quite simply goes back to basics, and parents couldn’t be more thrilled. From learning how to balance a checkbook, to being taught to write in cursive, and even the skill of knowing how to file taxes, SVRCS has it all covered.

In addition to the current AP courses, SVRCS offers an intro to business class, a sales and marketing course, computer science classes, anatomy, writing and composition, online foreign language, and a digital video production class, and uses the “smart futures” program that supports the ESSA requirements. The school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter competed at the Regional Leadership Conference this past Fall and are advancing to the State Leadership Conference in April in Hershey.

SVRCS shop and agriculture classes provide hands-on experiences and activities that help to cultivate interests where in many cases, leads to careers in those fields. Envirothon, Future Farmers of America, and other ag programs, touch on subjects like raising farm animals, introduction to horticulture, wildlife conservation, butchering, and how to make homemade sauerkraut and apple cider.

For years, students at SVRCS have been able to join the Fleece to Shawl team which is supervised by a teacher in the art department. In Fleece to Shawl, members learn how to harvest wool from the campus sheep, spin it into wool thread, dye it, and then ultimately weave it into a scarf in front of judges at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

The sports scene in the Sugar Valley area has always been important to locals, and the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School athletic programs are thriving and continue to show improvement every year. The list of sports include PIAA wrestling, PIAA cheerleading, PIAA girl’s volleyball, PIAA golf, PIAA boy’s baseball programs, and PIAA girl’s softball. The faculty at SVRCS feels that being involved in sports teaches team work, responsibility, school spirit, academics, and how to be a good roll model. The Sugar Valley Sports Boosters, hosts a two-day community festival on the Friday evening, and Saturday, before Memorial Day which helps to support the sports program at the school.

The school has an outstanding art, drama and music departments. The drama department puts on a play at Millbrook Playhouse each spring. and the art department has 2D and 3D classes including a course on stained glass. The music department has students competing at both District Chorus and District Band, and the marching band represents the school at numerous parades, where they have taken home some high ranking trophies. The newest addition to the music department is the school Jazz Band.

When the school year ends for most people in June, the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School continues to teach by offering Extended School Year, Summer Rec, Fitness Camp, Band Camp, Baseball Camp, and Science Camp, in addition to their newest summer program, “Kinder Camp” for the youngest of the student population.

“This summer we are going to continue our SVRCS Kinder Camp,” explained Mrs. Kennedy. “During a six week span, incoming kindergarteners will explore the basics of kindergarten with engaging, hands on learning experiences. Using STEAM activities (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics), the children will practice letters, numbers, shapes, and more, and kindergarten teachers Mr. Muise and Miss Hipple will also have students acting and thinking like scientists through exploration and experiments.

“In addition to all of the fun academic learning, we will also focus on the body and the mind. The children will learn about emotions and how to work through them individually while practicing social skills as they work with others around them. They’ll also engage in physical activity through exciting indoor and outdoor games. We can’t wait to see all of the new faces and make new friends,” she said.

When asked about anything new at the charter school, Kennedy quickly mentioned the school’s long-standing dream of having a real gym and auditorium. For the past 20 years, the school has had a ‘make-do’ attitude and utilized an open-plan building known as the multi-purpose room, or ‘MPR,’ as a cafeteria, a gym, a concert hall, a public event space, and as a classroom.

“This year, the school will break ground on a building that will serve as a proper gymnasium and auditorium, and we are very excited about the project since it will support our athletic and fine arts programs. Our students have been very patient and deserve this new facility,” said Kennedy. “We look forward to the educational opportunities that will be available to our students and community when this project is completed.”

Last year the school received a Rural Grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and utilized the monies to educate the community through programs and events presented by SVRCS Community Liaison person, Scott Kemmerer.

“Mr. Kemmerer continues to organize educational family events with hands on experiences with the help of talented community members and staff,” said Mrs. Kennedy. “Past programs have included basic boating certificate classes, CPR, preventing bullying, and dining with diabetes. Future events will feature family reading night, LIFT fitness class, and Pysanka egg decorating. The community really seems to enjoy the programs and we are pleased at the feedback we have received.”

The Sugar Valley Rural Charter School, 20 years down the road, is exactly what its founding fathers and mothers thought it would be. It’s full of fine learning, approachable teachers, old fashioned values, community involvement, all wrapped together to provide each student with a solid foundation that can be built on, for future success.

That’s what the vision was in the year 2000, and Kennedy can’t help to look forward toward the next 20 years, and wants to thank everyone who has been there along the way.

“We appreciate all of the support from the community and parents over the past two decades, as we continue to move forward with our greatest gifts which are the students of SVRCS!”

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To learn more about the Sugar Valley Rural Charter School, please call 570-725-7822 or visit their website at www.svrcs.org

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