By: Meredith Baker | Email: Click Here
Posted: December 2, 2018 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – The Prince George County School Board is considering the adoption of a new policy to make sure all students have the opportunity to apply for a slot at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School in Richmond or the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School in Petersburg.
According to Willie Elliott, the director of gifted education and Title I, there is currently slated to be only one opening at ARGS and no openings at Maggie Walker for students who will be in ninth grade next year.
Board Member Kevin Foster said that the division cannot build up children’s expectations of having the opportunity to apply to go to a governor’s school and then let them down.
“We ought to draft a policy that has some wiggle room, but we ought to guarantee to our taxpayers and our citizens three slots to ARGS in the ninth grade and two slots to Maggie Walker,” Foster said.
Elliott said that the division funds twelve slots at ARGS and eight slots at Maggie Walker. In theory, that should mean that there are three slots at ARGS and two at Maggie Walker for each year’s class of incoming freshmen from Prince George, but in practice that does not always happen. Elliott said that students from other school divisions who move into Prince George County and already attend one of those schools take up slots that would have been offered to incoming freshmen. On the flip side, when students attending a governor’s school move out of the county, thereby opening up slots, those slots are immediately offered to freshmen. That means some classes are larger than others, and keeping exactly twelve or eight slots at a school means that some years there are not as many open slots as other years.
“It’s a balancing act,” Elliott said.
Two parents, Alvin Crowder and Sheila Minor also spoke at the meeting and voiced their concern about the situation. Crowder said that his daughter, Leah Crowder, had the opportunity to go to Maggie Walker and has now been named a 2019 Rhodes Scholar, and he wants that opportunity to be there for today’s students and parents who really want it.
“That pipeline works,” Crowder said.
The board has requested staff to draft a potential policy to correct the issue. Board Member Rob Eley said that he thinks it is unfair for students from other counties to take slots away from Prince George students.
“I think taking a spot from a Prince George County student that has earned that right is wrong,” Eley said.
The school board did raise the question of whether the governor’s schools would be able to handle an increase in students. Elliott said the schools plan their budgets and number of teachers based on how many slots each school division requests, but he also said that the dance program at ARGS could be more limited in terms of space.