For two of our schools, back-to-school time marked an especially big moment: students and staff alike started their year in new buildings! The new school in Bristol serves a whole new part of the state, while the new building in Harrisonburg offers a whole lot more space. We reached out to a staff member at each school to hear how things are going:

Bristol, Lori Long, Coordinator of Southwest Virginia Schools

School started in Bristol on August 9th! The students came in smiling and were excited to be back in school. We currently have four students and two pending referrals. We are projecting to have ten students and two teachers, two assistant teachers, and one educational aide by May 2017.

We recently had volunteers Carole Todd and Meghan Prichard adopt our yoga room! They gave it an amazing facelift, and students and staff love the space. Carole and Meghan did some demolition, painted the room with a perfect calming blue grey, and donated a beautiful peace lily and yoga mats to finish off the space! The students are learning self-awareness and relaxation techniques, and, of course, yoga.


Breaking in the new yoga room.

To reach full capacity of 24 students, there is a need to renovate two wings at Minnick Bristol. The hope is to remove interior walls on these wings and create two large classrooms with observation space. We are excited about this renovation and the possibilities it will bring for our students!

Here are some cool things the students have learned throughout the summer and this school year:

  • Our summer theme was camping and the student wrote campfire stories, learned how to pitch a tent and even made their own campfire!
  • The students are also investigating the world around them through the scientific method. The students have learned how to make an egg float and how many drops of water the top of a quarter can hold before spilling over. They have also made pepper move in water with a single drop of soap. This surface tension experiment was a hit!
  • Ancient Greece and maps are the current topics in history. Students made beautiful mosaic vases and have loved using Google Earth on the three new iPads! The students even tasted Greek olives, although unfortunately this taste test was not very popular.
  • We are also looking forward to a tour of the Birthplace of Country Music museum in October. Music and heritage is important to everyone at Bristol Minnick and we are looking forward to this field trip! The students are currently working on making their own spin drums!

The students taste-tested olives… they weren’t big fans!

We are grateful for all the support from the community, parents, and our LFSVA family!

Harrisonburg, Ansley Kiser, Behavior Specialist

The first week was a huge success! The new building is incredibly accommodating for our students, and staff are noticing a difference. We have had a lot of opportunity to allow the students to explore the different options this building has such as the PAES lab, our large multipurpose room, the apartment, and the extra space in general.

It has been neat to watch our students discover new ways to interact socially, as well as academically. Staff have been involved in figuring out the new ‘quirks’ of the building and how they can be incorporated in our students’ day-to-day activities. It has been a win-win for everyone!


Student presentation about Reconstruction.

Our open house was extraordinary! We were able to show a combined total of 112 school representatives and community members our new space and how excited we are to have this opportunity.

This building is one-of-a-kind, and I really feel that everyone who stepped through our door could feel that. We had lots of positive feedback and well wishes as we begin our journey towards expansion.


Playing with cones in gym class.

With that being said, we are staring the school year with 28 students but can accommodate up to 65. Expansion is our goal, while still maintaining a positive and evidence based approach. We are excited to see what the future holds for us!

Photos by Lori Long, Michelle Hubbard, and Jason Lichti.