News and notes from Williamsburg-James City County Schools

Ryan McKinnon

Buddy Bench installed at Matthew Whaley

Fifth grader Annie Bush made good on a campaign promise she made while running to be school president at Matthew Whaley Elementary.

Bush proposed building a "Buddy Bench" outside the school.

The idea behind a Buddy Bench is to give students a place to go when feeling down, said Stephanie Carroll, a fourth grade teacher who is in charge of the student council association at the school. Teachers encourage students to look out for anyone sitting on the buddy bench, and if students see someone sitting on it, to ask them if they want to play.

Carroll said Buddy Benches have been installed at other schools before, but this is the first Buddy Bench in the Hampton Roads region.

Walk Wright Construction heard about Bush's proposal and decided to build and donate the bench to the school. The bench was delivered in late April, and the Sherwin-Williams store on Merrimac Trail donated paint.

Students and teachers painted the bench in bright rainbow colors, and the back of the bench has the handprints of the students who worked on it as a way to show the teamwork necessary to get it done, said Carroll.

Carroll said the bench is already serving its purpose.

"The best example of why we did this was during the last week of school there was a kindergartner (on the Buddy Bench) looking super sad," Carroll said. "A fourth grader approached him and began talking to him, and then we saw they got up and went over to the monkey bars. Once all the other kids saw the fourth grader was playing with the kid, they all ran over to play with them."

Carroll said the finishing touch on the Buddy Bench will be a plaque reading "Annie's Buddy Bench," in honor of the student council president.

"It is a really good legacy for Annie to leave because now she is going to middle school," Carroll said.

Rawls Byrd launches new summer reading program

The educators at Rawls Byrd Elementary School are working hard to make sure their students keep reading over the summer.

In addition to their print books, students at Rawls Byrd have access to online book collections through an E-book collection released by Michelle Obama. The collection has thousands of titles targeted for both elementary school and middle school-aged readers.

The website can be accessed through the school's website and requires an access code, which administrators sent out to Rawls Byrd families.

To celebrate reading milestones during the summer, administrators are also encouraging students to maintain contact over the summer and let them know when they finish a book. The school's web page lists instructions for celebrating eight milestones, including instructions to call the school after three books, to email a picture of themselves reading after their 13th book and to post a book recommendation to the school's "Kidblog" after their 18th book.

Students are also encouraged to come by the school to celebrate their reading accomplishments, and Rawls Byrd Principal Karen Swann said students have already been coming by.

In July faculty and staff will drive into neighborhoods where their students live to give students the chance to swap out books they have finished reading for new ones. Swann said administrators had not yet selected a date for the event.

McKinnon can be reached at 757-345-2341.

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