New Tech at Gereau is a very unique school, even within the New Tech Network. As I like to tell people, we are a “school within a school… within a school.”
Franklin County has 12 elementary schools that feed into one middle school and one comprehensive high school. Our middle school serves about 1800 students in grades 6-8 in three buildings on two campuses. The campus that is home to NT@G, The Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration, opened in 1997. It was originally designed to expose students to a work environment and provide students with experience to new, information-based technologies. Students were introduced to different careers through module classes such as Aviation and Health & Human Services. Coincidentally, the first New Tech school, New Tech High in Napa, California, also opened in 1997. The mid-nineties were a great time for educators to explore new teaching techniques, from multi-age classrooms to a myriad of magnet schools.
What came after the 90’s and all the experimentation that was going on in the world of schools? The pendulum swung toward standardization. In 2001, No Child Left Behind passed, and high stakes testing became the norm. In Virginia, the Standards of Learning went from being the title of a binder we saw on our teachers’ bookshelves to a test we took in core subjects at the end of the school year – and the results of those tests affected whether our schools were accredited by the state. In Franklin County, the pressures placed on students and teachers by SOL testing led to the expansion of traditional academics at the Gereau Center.
In 2016-2017, the year before we opened New Tech @ Gereau, nine career exploration modules were offered to students: Architectural Design, Broadcast Media Design, Computer Career Studies, Digital Media Design, Energy Engineering, Forensic Science, Graphic and Visual Design, Legal Studies and
Criminal Justice, and Medical Science. When we established our school, administration determined that two modules would be blended with core subjects to create New Tech courses, and the remaining modules would be blended to create new elective courses.
New Tech philosophies complement the original mission statement of the Gereau Center in many ways. As we planned this school, we envisioned that New Tech at Gereau could further the founding vision of TGC by working with local leaders in industry and business to develop and enhance curriculum, by
providing students with daily opportunities to use technology in authentic ways, and by involving parents and community organizations in the work in our classrooms.
100 eighth graders in Franklin County have the unique role of simultaneously being New Tech @ Gereau students (their math, English 8/Communications, Physical Science/Forensic Science, and Civics classes are Project- and Problem-Based), Gereau Center students (they have the option of taking one module class or Spanish outside of New Tech), and Benjamin Franklin Middle School students (Band and Choir, as well as all athletic teams, are offered on the BFMS campus). It has been my goal as a school director to maximize rather than limit the opportunities our students have to learn, grow, and explore their unique interests, and being a school within a school within a school helps us achieve that goal.