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Sims Embraces the ‘Opportunities for Options’

 

An alternative path to achieving a high school diploma is what Loudoun County’s newest high school is all about.

 

On August 26, W.O. Robey High School will open its doors for the first time to nearly 20 Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) students. Robey is designed to provide an alternative education program for students whose education may have been altered by external circumstances and challenges.

 

“These are kids who have had life challenges, so many of them have not experienced success in traditional schools,” said Robey High School Principal Jeanene Sims.

 

“What I think we’ll be able to do here is, instead of fitting them into the school day, is to try to fit the school day into their lives. The goal is to take time and make it a variable...in ways that fit into working a 40-hour work week, or parenting, for example. Success is going to look different for that student and finding a more personalized way to reach them is the goal.”

 

Robey High School will occupy space within Park View High School. While there are many challenges that come along with sharing a space with another school, Sims is looking forward to embracing the benefits with being a “school within a school.”

 

“The challenges are that resources aren’t infinite. We are not just for Park View, we are for all of LCPS. We want to encourage people to see us as Robey, and not Park View. We are a separate entity and, as such, we welcome and open our doors to anyone within LCPS that may need a nontraditional route to graduate.”

 

Over the course of her career in education, Sims, a native of Roanoke City, Virginia, has felt embraced by similar communities. Headed into her 27th year in education and sixth in the Sterling Park community, Sims is looking forward to the unique opportunities Robey can provide for students.

 

“I am most looking forward to giving kids options. I think that’s huge. I want teachers to go from being in front of the classroom, to being the coach beside the student, guiding them through their education journey.”

 

While there are similarities between the alternative model that will be implemented at Robey and the flexibility that GED programs can provide, the stark difference is in the final product.

 

“I think with a GED, you’re looking at getting the requisite skills to pass the test to get the GED. This [program] is an actual high school diploma that is issued by Robey High School, Loudoun County Public Schools. How we’re different is that this is a high school diploma [program] that [students] will be able to do at their own time.”

 

Robey will welcome students from four LCPS high schools this fall -  Dominion, Lightridge, Champe and Park View - and expects to have more students enroll as the district gets back to full in-person instruction after the challenges of the last 18 months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“We’re spending a lot of time making phone calls and trying to make home visits to find those kids who were referred to us. Often they are dropping out because they want to work, or they need to work. We are fighting the good fight to find them, to bring them in and to let them know that in lieu of dropping out of high school, that they can get their diploma and also work and do everything they need to do.”

 

Sims appreciates the unique opportunity that she and her staff have to meet the growing needs of the school division and its diverse student body.

 

“We can try to do some more of that unique scheduling for kids to meet them where they are. This is for the kid that really wants to focus on finishing the high school requirements to exit high school and enter life.”

 

 

 

 

Published August 19, 2021