School Board approves new business academy at Kempsville

The Virginia Beach School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the creation of an entrepreneurship and business academy at Kempsville High School, clearing the way for 125 freshman to enroll beginning in 2016.

“I’m both appreciative of the efforts and initiative that came forward from Kempsville, and delighted to support it,” Chairman Dan Edwards said.

One of the motives of the initiative is to boost Kempsville’s declining enrollment. The high school has been losing on average about 75 students per year. Last year it was 463 students below its capacity of 1,985.

Students in the academy will have the opportunity to follow one of three “strands”: entrepreneurship, business information technology and corporate finance. They will be able to earn credits toward an Associate of Science Degree in Business from Richard Bland College. Seniors will be required to complete an internship at a local business.

Classes will include Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Microsoft IT Academy, Web Design Foundations and Foundations in Design Thinking. Students will be able to earn industry certifications, such as a Microsoft Office Specialist Certification, or become an Adobe Certified Expert.

The plan is to begin with a freshman class, beginning fall 2016, and add 125 students each successive year, with the school reaching full capacity in the 2019-2020 school year.

Starting the academy is expected to cost about $1.04 million in the first year. That number includes instructional and staff costs, facility improvements, transportation and supplies. The school intends to build a “Makerspace,” which would be used as an on-site business incubator and “flexible classroom,” to open in Fall 2017.

Board member Leonard Tengco said he had intended to vote against the academy when he arrived at the meeting. He gave a passionate speech about why he disagreed with some of the principles of the academy, especially the Corporate Finance track.

“So why am I still voting for it after I said all that?” he asked. “It’s hope and the power of the collective imagination to solve the problem for future generations. There’s a lot of stuff that has been left for future generations to solve.”

Tengco said leadership should be emphasized at the academy.

Other Board members heaped praise and support on the program.

“It’s absolutely clear to me that not only is this something that I personally would like to see move forward, I know it’s what the community wants,” Board member Ashley McLeod said.

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