Sacred Heart Academy is one of more than forty schools in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, with a student population of approximately 200 in pre-k through grade eight. Our campus, in the heart of the scenic Shenandoah Valley, is located on a hill in Winchester, Virginia, next to Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. Our westward facing classrooms look out over the Appalachian Mountains, while to the East we see the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s truly a beautiful setting.
The small city of Winchester has a rich history. A young George Washington actually did sleep here while working as a surveyor. He and his team surveyed thousands of acres bequeathed to Lord Fairfax by the king of England. For a time Washington occupied an office on South Braddock Street that is still open to the public today. Many Civil War skirmishes were fought in and around the community. Homes were turned into hospitals and military offices. The city had the dubious honor of changing hands 72 times during the war.
The Academy was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in 1957. It is now staffed by a laity that continues the tradition of teaching daily religion classes, and guiding our students in living a prayerful, spiritual life, in addition to providing a strong academic foundation. The parish priests visit the school weekly to aid in the teaching of the faith, and our students participate in weekly Mass. Our families make up a close knit community, and we’re heavily dependent on their support of the school. Our volunteer in-service program asks that families serve twenty five hours per year performing volunteer tasks. There are multiple opportunities to fulfill this commitment. Parents help with lunch and recess duty, chaperone field trips, participate in fund raising projects such as the annual PTO auction, and even assist in the classroom. For those who are unable to physically come to school to serve, there are many options for fulfilling those hours at home, from making cookies for the Thanksgiving feast to counting Box Tops for Education. This participation is vital to the school’s success.
In 2009 we completed a 14,000 square foot addition and renovated the remainder of the school. This addition made it possible to house the entire student population under one roof. This addition included classrooms, an art room, media center, conference rooms, music room, state-of-the art science lab, and a peaceful courtyard conducive to meditation. We’re pleased for the support of our parish and the Diocese of Arlington in this project. The new facilities have helped us enhance the Academy’s academic program, and brought cohesiveness and a new vibrancy to the student population. The next project presently under discussion is the addition of a gymnasium. At the moment, our basketball teams practice at the Youth Development Center. However, in the future we hope to have a facility where we cannot only practice, but play scheduled games against other area teams and have enough room for our fans to watch.
As part of our STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) initiative we acquired a 30 unit iPad2 mobile lab the summer of 2012. This mobile unit means we can integrate more technological applications into the classroom. For example, in a recent exercise, students studying geography located the Great Lakes using Google Maps on their iPads. In 2011we added a classroom set of digital responders. The responders can be programmed to connect to a teacher-created questionnaire housed on a laptop computer. The instructor can present information to students, then through the responders, students answer questions to a quiz, and the instructor can see immediately whether they have a good understanding of the lesson, or whether he needs to re-teach using another approach. For the past three years our sixth grade students have attended Starbase, a week long camp funded through the Department of Defense. At Starbase, students participate in challenging, hands-on, mind-on, activities which raise students’ interests in critical fields. We are constantly looking for opportunities to help us to prepare our students for the world beyond the classroom.
Technology is of great importance, but more than anything, we are here to prepare the whole child, physically, intellectually and spiritually, to go forward and live meaningful, faith-filled lives, cognizant of the needs around them, and able through his talents and knowledge to make the world a better place.