New Albany's annual Peace Week observance is April 22-26.

New Albany's annual Peace Week observance is April 22-26.

"It's a wonderful part of the tradition and fabric of the high school and certainly celebrates the values that are important to us as a school community," said school board President Laura Kohler. "I'm pleased to see it become bigger and more relevant to the students and the community members every year."

Peace Week began 14 years ago at New Albany High School as a local response to the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in which 15 people died.

The observance has expanded to a weeklong event, but high school principal Ric Stranges said it remains a student-organized commitment to positive student culture and the potential to change.

"The original intent was to change our culture and to celebrate the positive things that happen here," Stranges said. "We're bringing it back to the essence of what we are."

Stranges said keeping students involved can prevent school violence.

"We try to foster interpersonal relationships (and) relationships between the students and the teachers," Stranges said.

Stranges said that becomes more challenging each year as the student population increases.

Stranges said when he started at New Albany High School as dean of students in 1999, the school's enrollment was 360.

Now, the school has 1,400 pupils, and he admits he doesn't know every student's name.

Stranges said he wants all 1,400 students to feel they are a part of the school, which district officials have tried to achieve by assigning students to eight "houses," hosting 57 clubs and celebrating all aspects of student interests during Peace Week, including drama, music, athletics and food.

"We want them to be valued and known and connected to teachers and other students for all four years," Stranges said.

Events begin Monday, April 22, with an anti-bullying walk from 1 to 1:45 p.m.

Elizabeth Gonda, assistant principal at New Albany Middle School, said the first walk organized last year raised money to support programs on positive student culture.

The walk is open to all students and community members. Students walk for free while community members can pay a small fee that supports anti-bullying initiatives for next year.

Anti-bullying events continue April 23 and 24 with a visit from Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, a book about girls and bullying.

Wiseman will speak to the community at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 23, at the Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts, and to students and faculty April 24.

Her visit is being funded by outside donors, said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.

On Friday, April 26, students will compete in games to earn the "house cup," and celebrate the rest of the day at a "lunch on the lawn," listening to student bands and eating food provided at a reduced cost by local vendors.

"It's a fun week and has become their tradition," Stranges said. "It's fun for our students to come up with traditions that are really embedded in what we do and to celebrate another year of treating each other well.

"What we're saying (to them) is thank you, for another great year of keeping the peace."