Roanoke City students have new classrooms, programs for 2015-2016

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) will welcome back more than 13,500 students Tuesday. For the first time, the first day of school is on a Tuesday. There are several new classrooms, programs and classes students can look forward to.

Round Hill Elementary will start the school year with a new building that will house 12 classrooms. Additionally, six classrooms inside Round Hill were renovated over the summer. In the fall, crews will build another nine classrooms. In the spring, the rest of the school will be renovated.

Roanoke City Public Schools has received a Gear Up Grant to make college a reality for rising 8th graders. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, RCPS has implemented a program designed to help students stay in school, develop good study skills and take the right courses to go to college. The official name of the program is called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).

In Virginia, GEAR UP serves 29 schools, including all five of Roanoke City's middle schools. The GEAR UP Virginia program is a six year grant and will follow 8th graders through middle and high school. The grant will help pay for academic advising sessions, visits to college campuses, and other activities to help students plan for life after high school.

All students in grades 2-5 will be exposed to Spanish this school year. Roanoke offered a similar program in the past but on a limited basis and only a few grade levels. The program will be offered at all 17 elementary schools for 12 weeks. All students from second to fifth grade will participate.

All 8th and 9th graders will begin the school year with take home laptops. Last year, RCPS launched a pilot program that put laptops in the hands of every 8th grader. For the 2015-2016 School Year, RCPS purchased an additional 944 laptops for 9th graders. The laptops for William Fleming High School's 9th graders are being subsidized by a state grant.