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Layla Moss, 7, a second grader at Grandin Court Elementary, throws her hands in the air with glee as she and an auditorium full of students cheer as their school earns a National Blue Ribbon Award on Thursday.

The joy of winning the National Blue Ribbon School award was worth the wait, said fifth grader Carter Patrouch.

She and her Grandin Court Elementary School classmates learned their school was in the running for the top school honor last March. On Thursday, the entire student body celebrated with resounding applause, cheers and sno-cones.

Principal Theresa Pritchard announced the victory inside the gym. She credited the students, faculty and staff for their hard work and dedication over the years. The school then heard a prerecorded message from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos congratulating winning schools.

Grandin Court was one of seven public schools in Virginia to earn the recognition. Fellow winning public schools are Paul Munro Elementary in Lynchburg, Rodney E. Thompson Middle in Stafford County, Rural Retreat Elementary in Wythe County, Midlothian High in Chesterfield County, Arlington Traditional School in Arlington County and Tallwood Elementary in Virginia Beach.

Two private schools in Virginia, Saint Francis of Assisi School in Triangle and Trinity Christian School in Everett, were also named Blue Ribbon schools.

The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program started in 1982. Public schools are selected by the federal government based on one of two criteria: state assessments, or performance in closing achievement gaps.

Up to 420 schools are nominated annually by the top education official in each state and U.S. territory. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education.

Only 362 schools across the U.S. received the honor this year.

Following the ceremony, the school treated students to blue sno-cones, and gave them blue ribbons to wear home. Pritchard said the school will receive a plaque and a blue ribbon flag after an upcoming ceremony recognizing all winners in Washington, D.C.

Patrouch and Carter Shell helped display a new banner that will hang at Grandin Court Elementary.

Shell said he’d hoped his school could win the prize for a long time. The fifth grader said he’s excited to tell his friends and family.

“It was worthwhile, waiting all these years,” he said. “It was pretty fun.”

Grandin Court joins several other city schools to earn the recognition including Breckenridge Junior High School (now a middle school), 1983-84, James Madison Junior High School (also now a middle school), 1986-87, William Fleming High School, 1988-89, Highland Park Learning Center Magnet School (now an elementary school), 1991-92, and Crystal Spring Elementary School in 2015, according to the school division.

A year ago, Colonial Elementary in Botetourt County, and Harrington Waddell Elementary in Lexington received the award.

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