Last week, local and state representatives took a morning tour of Rockfish River Elementary School to learn about the school and meet students and staff.

On Nov. 13, Del. Richard “Dickie” Bell, R-Staunton, along with local representatives from the Nelson County Board of Supervisors, the Nelson County School Board, and local offices spent the morning learning about the school in Afton.

Attendees included Nelson County Board of Supervisor members Tommy Harvey, North District representative; Jesse Rutherford, East District representative; and Ernie Reed, Central District representative; county officials Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Daniel Rutherford, Commissioner of Revenue Pam Campbell, and Treasurer Angela Hicks, as well as school board chair Janet Turner Giles.

The annual event is part of the Virginia School Boards Association’s “Take your Legislator to School Month” in November. Principal Crystal Choate and Vice Principal Jody Coffey welcomed individuals to the school before they were split into two tour groups to visit classrooms and other portions of the school.

“The students here deserved nothing less than the best,” Choate said.

The purpose of the event is to give legislators an opportunity to observe what is going on in Virginia schools and gives students and staff the opportunity to meet elected officials and ask questions.

The groups visited teacher Haley Osborne’s fourth grade class and teacher Gillian Lanier’s second grade class to hear about what the kids are learning and what their lessons consist of. In Osborne’s class, the kids were learning about life in Colonial Virginia and the differences between life then and now. In Lanier’s class, the students were learning about the seven continents and how to identify them on a map. The guests had the opportunity to sit with students and help them with their work.

Just before lunch, everyone gathered in the library and student representatives from first through fifth grade got to introduce themselves and talk a little bit about why they like their school and what they want to be when they grow up. Second grader Yaretsy Barragon told the crowd she loves her school because all the teachers are nice.

Osborne and Lanier, as well as other school faculty, had the opportunity to talk more about themselves and bring up concerns they have for Rockfish. Lanier asked what can be done about the school’s declining enrollment, while Tye River Elementary School has a growing population. Questions about the environment in the county and what can be done to help improve it as well as concerns about reaching and helping students with different needs were also posed to elected officials.

“We give everything we have to our students every day,” Lanier said.

Osborne echoed Lanier’s thoughts, stating as a Nelson native, the county and the school itself are very special to her and she wants to ensure the school’s success now and in the future.

“We value these kids; during the day they are our own,” Osborne said.

Reed addressed environmental concerns, stating the county has taken a stance against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and that some members are working with other regions on environmental initiatives, including recycling in the county. Giles told the teachers and staff they are actively working to address the decreasing enrollment.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County. Reach her at (434) 385-5524 or

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