GO Virginia State Board Awards Funding for Emil & Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center

March 18, 2019

Entrance Rendering

WINCHESTER – On March 12, 2019 the Growth and Opportunity Virginia State Board awarded approximately $500,000 to Winchester Public Schools (WPS) who will renovate the former John Kerr Elementary School to become an extension of John Handley High School and house three career and technical education (CTE) academies: Professional Skills, Advanced Technologies, and Health Sciences. The partnership between Winchester and Lord Fairfax Community College will allow both to expand programming and enhance capacity of existing programs.

The GO Virginia award will fund equipment in the Welding Lab, Print Farm, CAD Lab, Robotics Lab, and Cyber Lab within the Professional Skills and Advanced Technology Academies. In addition to providing training tools and equipment, the GO Virginia funding will allow WPS to expand the Work-Based Learning program by hiring a Work-Based Learning Coordinator for each of the academies that will be responsible for connecting students with businesses in the region. WPS collaborated with 15 companies within the region’s targeted sectors to secure 70 annual internships related directly to the skills obtained in the 5 funded laboratories. In addition to the partnership with LFCC, Clarke County has committed tuition payments for students in their division to enroll in programming at the Innovation Center that is not currently offered in Clarke County.

George Pace, Chairman of the GO Virginia Region 8 Council said of the project: “It is a great thing to see so much of the private sector engaged in the education and training of our young people. This project, and the partnerships it has created, are a huge win for our region.”

“We are so grateful to receive this grant award from GO Virginia as we respond to the industry demand in our region. Winchester Public Schools is committed to make every student career ready as they look towards their future. Our Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center, which breaks ground in September 2019, will be a dedicated extension of John Handley High School for students to explore the world of work through our three academies – Professional Skills, Health Sciences, and Advanced Technologies. Once open, all students will experience the Innovation Center at some point in their high school career. It’s an exciting day in Winchester.” Jason Van Heukelum – Superintendent, Winchester Public Schools

“The facility will be a state-of-the-art career and technical education center benefiting students in the Winchester Public Schools as well as those from the entire Northern Shenandoah Valley through Lord Fairfax Community College. The training and career opportunities provided at the center will enable students to acquire marketable skills and credentials and, in turn, will assist our region and the state at large in preparing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of Virginia industry. This is truly a partnership with win-win results. We are so appreciative that the GO Virginia State Board has chosen to recognize this impactful project and to provide this generous grant.” Kimberli Ball – President, Winchester Education Foundation

“We are very grateful to the GO Virginia State Board for selecting the Winchester Public Schools as the recipient of the GO Virginia Grant. These funds will be well invested in the lives of the all students who will attend the Innovation Center and make up our skilled workforce for the future. As a community, we should be very proud.” Russ Potts – Executive Director, Winchester Education Foundation

Contacts: Brandon Davis, 540.636.8800,; Ashley Shickle,