Community School News

Winter 2015

Officer Travis Akins Receives Local Hero Award

Text Box:  Community School honored Roanoke City Police Officer Travis Akins this year with the 2015 Local Hero Award. Officer Akins was instrumental in bringing Project Lifesaver to Roanoke, a free service for families that helps save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.


During his work on this project, Officer Akins saw a need for adults with cognitive disorders, such as autism or Down syndrome. He started working on such a program in 2013, and in November of 2014, Growth Through Opportunity officially launched at the Roanoke Police Department. These young men currently volunteer inside the police station learning a variety of skills, and in turn the police officers are able to interact with them in a non-emergency situation.


Our hero worked hard to find funding and insurance for a program like this. He connected with the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center to find job coaches. Tracy Morris, who nominated our hero, said that “by giving these young men and women a role within the police department, our officers will have the unique understanding and set of skills required” to work with this particular population. The GTO Cadets receive job skills, which can help them gain employment, but also an opportunity to be a part of the community in which they live.

For over a decade, Community School has recognized a local hero in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our middle school students study the life of Dr. King, solicit nominations from the public, and then choose the honoree they feel best represents the characteristics of altruism, humanitarianism and social conscience.


At two ceremonies last Friday, Officer Akins reminded the audience that we all have choices to make in life and echoed the sentiment of Dr. King that “the time is always right to do what is right.”


Preschool and Kindergarten Information Session Scheduled for March 3 at 6:30 p.m.

Join us for classroom visits and teacher discussions about our early learner program. Talk with individual teachers and staff. The teachers will explain how our developmentally-appropriate curriculum addresses the whole child’s social, physical, emotional, and academic growth, our integrated curriculum, the importance of play, and the features that distinguish our school from other options in the valley. Free childcare is available during the session. RSVP to 563-5036 or Snow date: March 5.

CHS Students Invited to Exhibit Artworks

As part of its Young Artist program, The Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech is exhibiting student works from three current Community High School classes. Margo Crutchfield, the curator at large for the Center, says that the exhibition has received more media attention than any other exhibit the gallery staff has coordinated. Narratives and Persuasion: Puppets, Prints, and Manifestos is showing in the Miles C. Horton Jr. Gallery and Sherwood Payne Quillen ’71 Reception Gallery through January.

Fall 2014

Community School Hosts Social Media Presentation

Have you ever wondered:

  • What are the latest trends in texting and social networking?

  • How to be informed of your child’s “screen time” habits?

  • What to expect when your child enters middle school?

Parenting can be tricky, especially as our children enter the middle and high school years, and new technology can be a challenge! Community School is hosting a Social Media Presentation for Parents & Youth (ages 8-14) by the Prevention Council of Roanoke County on Tuesday, November 18, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. Class size is limited to 25 participants. Childcare is not provided. To register, please contact Linda Roth at

New Book Spotlights Community School

Connecting Children to Nature: Ideas and Activities for Parents and Educators, edited by Michael L. Bentley, Michael P. Mueller, and Bruce Martin, spotlights Community School’s success and its commitment to developing children’s naturalist intelligence (see chapter one).

From camping trips to raising chickens, from daily outdoor recess to creek walks and water testing, our students experience and study the natural world in depth throughout their school years. While so many children spend their days indoors, tethered to electronic media, our students actively connect with nature every school day.

Homeschool Enrichment Classes Expanded

In addition to our regular classes in art, music, drama, Spanish, and technology, older homeschool students (ages 10 through 14) are now invited to participate in our innovative elective program known as Friday Groups. Topics range from scientific field studies to filmmaking, creative writing, robotics and service learning. For detailed information on our semester classes and Friday Groups, please visit the new Homeschool Enrichment pages on our website.

Alumna Receives National Award

Community School alumna Corrie Williamson has received the 2014 Perugia Press Prize for a First or Second Book by a Woman for her new book Sweet Husk. Corrie, who teaches at Helena College in Montana, writes stunning poetry about nature, family, and her experiences growing up in Southwest Virginia.

Community School Adds Transitional Kindergarten

This fall, Community School has added a transitional kindergarten class to meet the needs of children (and parents!) who may not be ready for a regular, full-day kindergarten program. Perfect candidates for this class include students:

  • with late summer and fall birthdays;

  • who are developmentally younger;

  • who still need a quiet rest or nap in the afternoon;

  • whose parents prefer to give them an extra year before kindergarten.

The transitional kindergarten class offers a greater emphasis on literacy and math skills than our normal preschool classes while maintaining our focus on differentiation, social and emotional development, and enrichment activities. Families can choose either half- or full-day enrollment. Maximum enrollment for the class is eight students.

Bolivian Exchange Students Arrive on Campus

For the seventeenth year, we are delighted to welcome students from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to our school. Eleven visiting students arrive in October and will stay with our families and attend classes here through early December. Some of our middle school students will travel to Bolivia in the spring, attending classes at Colegio  Domingo Savio for one month.

This longstanding exchange creates a wonderful opportunity for our students to broaden their knowledge of Spanish, immerse themselves in the culture of another country, and gain confidence and independence.

New Addition Filled with Music and Learning

Our new building addition, completed last spring, is now in full use. The addition houses a music lab, a STEM lab, and a multi-purpose space that hosts both special events and daily classes.

All of our students, from preschool through middle school, benefit from the new, larger area for their music classes. The music room provides space for our Yamaha Music in Education Keyboard Lab, as well as additional instruments, and enables younger students to engage in creative movement.

Our students also enjoy regular classes and special activities in the STEM lab, which features a kitchen area, greenhouse window, grow lights and shelves, and workstations tailored for different ages. This fall, the STEM lab also boasts a fifty-gallon tank stocked with three hundred trout eggs as our students participate in Trout in the Classroom, a national environmental education program.

January 2014

Students Present 2014 Local Hero Award

Community School's Local Hero Committee is proud to announce Reverend Sue Bentley as this year's recipient of the Local Hero Award. Sue was nominated by her three children, Sarah, Alex and Matt, who noted how much time she gives to others. She regularly visits those in hospitals, nursing homes and retirement communities. Sue is a board member of the Mental Health Association of the Roanoke Valley and hopes to make a difference for those dealing with mental illnesses.

While these are important contributions to our valley, it is Sue's work with the South Sudanese population here in Roanoke that most impressed the committee. She started outreach programs for them, helping the immigrants cope with the challenge of leaving a war-torn country and adjust to their new lives. She assists with their daily needs, worked to provide them a place to worship at St. James Episcopal Church, and has become their priest. Sue inspires those around her, her children and us. In her acceptance speech, she shared an African proverb about the importance of working together--while it is easy to break a single stick, a bundle is stronger--and called for us all to bundle together.

Since 2002, Community School has sponsored the Local Hero Award to honor the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our middle school students select the recipient, create an original art piece to serve as the award, and present the award during a student-led ceremony. Special thanks go to the members of the Westside Step Team for their performance at this year's award ceremony and for their leadership during a step workshop held for our students following the ceremony.

Fall 2013

Strawberry Festival News!

We are happy to announce that Hometown Bank has agreed to partner with Community School as a presenting sponsor for Strawberry Festival. They have agreed to a three-year commitment of $15,000 annually.

Strawberry Festival costs an average of $30,000 to produce. We generally receive $10,000-$12,000 in sponsorships each year. Our goal has long been to have Strawberry Festival paid for completely through sponsorships. This would mean that the money we bring in during the two days of the event would be 100% profit. Thanks to this new relationship, we may be able to finally reach this goal.

Please join us in thanking Hometown Bank for their vote of confidence in our event!

We Met Our Match!

Total Project Cost: $275,000

Total Raised to Date: $239,000 

If you've been on campus, you've seen the great progress made on the new building. If not, visit the link on our homepage to view construction photos. 

We thank the Ceres Foundation for its wonderful matching grant. We met that challenge with the help of our community and raised $50,000 which will result in a total of $100,000 toward this project. Thanks to all those who pledged to make this possible. 

We are now in striking distance of raising the total building cost...$275,000.  We only have $36,000 left to raise.  Please help us cross the finish line and consider maximizing your tax deductions this year by pledging a gift to the campaign.

New Building Update & Matching Grant Information

Visit the "Building On Our Vision" link on the homepage of this website to see updated construction photos and a progress report from Board Chair, David Lloyd.

Have you heard about our matching grant? The Ceres Foundation generously pledged to match all new pledges through 12/31/13, up to $50,000. As of today, we have raised $31,000 eligible for that match leaving just $19,000 yet to be raised to take advantage of this wonderful gift! No pledge is too small, so please consider helping us earn the full matching grant! Thank you to all those who have already given. Your support has helped us get this far.

Summer 2013

New Executive Director on Campus


Community School is pleased to announce that the Board of Trustees has hired Linda Roth as the school’s new Executive Director. She stepped into the administrative leadership position in July, after the previous director had to relocate due to her husband’s job.


Linda is a familiar face on campus; she has been teaching in the middle school program for sixteen years. Linda holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Vassar College and a master’s degree in education from the University of Rochester.


     As a strong advocate of progressive education, I am excited to take on the

     director’s position at Community School. Our school is a valuable resource for  

     southwest Virginia, and I want us to continue to provide students with the joy of 

     discovery in a nurturing environment. I believe that we have an important role in

     developing responsible citizens who care about their community and have the

     courage to take action.


Our school community is delighted to welcome a leader who is not only a valued and talented teacher, but a friend with a longstanding commitment to the school and a deep understanding of our philosophy and mission. Linda is the third consecutive Executive Director to move from our teaching faculty into the director’s role.

Groundbreaking for New Building Scheduled; Fundraising Continues

The Board of Trustees invites the entire Community School family to the groundbreaking ceremony scheduled on campus at the site of the new building on Monday, June 10, at 11:00 a.m. Please join us and show your support for the school. This new addition to our campus will house a STEM lab, music lab, and multi-purpose space. Fundraising efforts continue for this important project. While steady progress has been made, we need and appreciate your continued giving to see construction through to fruition. For more information, please click the “Building On Our Vision” button on the Community School home page.

Winter 2013

Community School Voted "One of the Best Independent Schools in Southwestern Virginia"

Community School just received notification that the readers of Virginia Living have voted Community School as one of the Best Independent Schools in Southwestern Virginia, as part of the Best of Virginia Reader's Survey. The survey results will be published in a special issue, Best of Virginia 2013, coming in early May.

Students Honor St. Francis Service Dogs with Award

Since 2002, Community School has sponsored the Local Hero Award to honor the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, the Local Hero Award Committee chose to honor a local non-profit agency whose efforts in the community have exemplified Dr. King’s peaceful efforts. The award committee, composed of middle school students chosen by their teachers, selected St. Francis Service Dogs for their dedication to providing trained service dogs to people with disabilities such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, autism, and brain injury.

The students will present the award, an original student-created art work, to St. Francis Service Dogs in February. The award piece represents Joseph Campbell’s monomyth or hero’s journey. The hero’s journey is a universal tale found across cultures. Each rung in the ladder represents a different stage in the hero’s venture.


A ladder presents this piece as a symbol of climbing to something we need to reach, growth and ascension. Naturally, this led the student artists to think of the symbolism of a journey. Each artist submitted ideas for the piece and voted to choose a peer’s design. Then the individual artists each created a single rung and, using a layered wood technique, brought the story to life.

To tell the story, the work emulates the style of Henri Matisse. Matisse, in his later years, became fascinated by the ability of simple lines to tell a story. His work became full of fantastic shapes and featureless figures careening, flitting or stretching across the canvas. These faceless figures could be anyone, as a hero can be any one of us.

Fall 2012

New Music Keyboard Lab Open for Classes

Our new Yamaha Music in Education (MIE) Keyboard Lab arrived this summer and is now set up and ready for class in the music room. All of our students, from preschool through middle school, began enjoying the benefits of this wonderful addition to our music curriculum during the first week of school.

Community School music teacher Kim Mucha, who attended a special training workshop during the summer, has been busy introducing all the students, staff, and parents to the lab's amazing features and potential for enhancing our students' music education. The state-of-the-art lab allows students to play and perform, sing, compose, listen, improvise, and read, notate, analyze, and describe music.

Many thanks to everyone who supported the fundraising effort for Community School’s new keyboard lab. Whether you donated funds, went to a concert, or attended the spaghetti dinner and talent show, you played a part in making this exciting addition to our children’s music education a reality. Please stop by the music room to see our new lab.

Spring 2012

Strawberry Festival Wins "Favorite Annual Festival"

We are thrilled to share the news with you about Strawberry Festival and the "Best of Roanoke 2012." The Strawberry Festival is the Platinum Award winner for "Favorite Annual Festival”! This marks the first time that the Strawberry Festival has placed above Festival in the Park for this annual “best of” award. We are grateful to all the volunteers who work so tirelessly to make our event the Berry Greatest in the Roanoke Valley. This year marks the 25th year of The Roanoker's annual reader poll "Best of Roanoke." The 2012 ballot consisted of more than 100 categories on many topics. There are never any nominees on the ballot, simply categories where voters must "write-in" their pick for the best. For more information on the Strawberry Festival, click on the berry at the top right of this page.

Fall 2011

CS Alumna is a Poster Child for Women in Science

The following excerpt is reprinted with permission from the Yale Alumni Magazine. To read the full article and link to the related Associated Press article, please visit the Yale Alumni Magazine. For additional information on the impressive achievements of our alumni, please visit our Alumni Updates page. Rebecca Allred is a graduate of Community School and Community High School of Arts & Academics.

A woman’s place is in the lab

When Rebecca Allred was college-hunting, Harvard president Larry Summers publicly expressed doubts about women’s aptitude for high-level science.

Allred who finished her high school requirements at age 16 and scored a perfect 5 on her AP chemistry test went to the College of William and Mary in Virginia. There she took a chemistry class with Elizabeth Harbron, who became a mentor, her lab an incubator for high-achieving young women.

Now Allred is a second-year doctoral student at Yale and, thanks to a recent Associated Press article, a poster child for women in science: “one of a new generation of young women who are helping change the face of the so-called STEM fields science, technology, engineering and math.