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School Board poised to make decision on Commonwealth Governor’s School

The King George School Board got discouraging news regarding help with costs for establishing a site for a Commonwealth Governor’s School at the new King George High School beginning in September 2009.  
Dr. Dave Baker, Director of the Commonwealth Governor’s School (CGS), told the School Board that CGS would not be able to assist with start-up costs and that two of the three area school divisions had decided not to pursue sending tuition students to the proposed King George CGS site.  
Whether to establish a CGS site in King George is another decision the School has been unable to make for several years, with the idea in the talking stages for the last decade.
Superintendent Candace Brown said she would provide new cost estimates for starting up the program for only 9th graders at the next School Board meeting on December 10.      
If it goes forward, the site would be in a new replacement high school which is under construction next door to the existing King George High School on Route 3.  
The new high school is currently planned for opening at the end of January, when the entire student body and faculty at the existing high school is expected to be shifted into the new school.
The current high school building will be closed down for the remainder of the school year.
If the School Board decides to establish a Commonwealth Governor’s School site in King George, it is currently slated to start up in fall 2009-10.
At its last meeting on November 12, the School Board heard from Baker, who told them his previous offer to the division of financial assistance with start-up costs would likely have to be withdrawn.  
“I think that everyone is aware that the state is experiencing serious problems with its budget and that divisions will be facing cuts,” Baker said.  
He added, “I don’t know about my CGS budget, either.  There is a chance that CGS may not be able to provide the financial assistance that we thought.”
Baker said he had told Brown in October that with state funding expected to be cut, he would be hard-pressed to pursue providing some of the CGS funding to King George.  
Baker told the School Board, “You would be shouldering the complete financial burden and you don’t know what your funding will look like.”
Baker added, “That doesn’t take into account what will happen with your local funding.”  
But Baker also had more bad news.  
He told the School Board, “There have been several new developments since we last met.”
Baker last provided the School Board with cost information at a meeting on July 9.
Regarding that previous discussion, Baker told them, “I shared with you that we needed as much advance notice as possible.  Now I am a little concerned.  Caroline and Colonial Beach have both indicated they are very interested, but are no longer able to make a budgetary commitment for next year.”
Baker said that Westmoreland was still interested and was planning on sending 2-4 students.
Baker said, “I would love to see the program here, but wanted the board to see what it is up against.”
The news was discouraging to all but School Board member Payne Kilbourn, who said, “This economy is going to turn around.  This is not 1929.”
He added, “I don’t know that we need to be this pessimistic about it, I think it is still achievable and do-able.  Let’s keep planning because this is going to turn around.”
Brown said she would bring start-up costs for beginning with only one grade level at the next meeting on December 10.  
~ KGHS STUDENTS CURRENTLY AT STAFFORD    Currently, there are five slots for each grade level for students in King George to travel to Stafford High School to participate in the Commonwealth Governor’s School half-day program.
The Commonwealth Governor’s School provides classes in the four core academic classes (English, Math, Social Studies and Science), which are designed to motivate academically talented students.  
o     START UP COSTS    Start up costs were previously provided to the School Board at a meeting in April.  The program involves video-teleconferencing with CGS other sites, which adds to the cost.
Equipment to outfit one broadcast room was estimated to cost $72,100.  Costs to equip a computer area were estimated at $20,000 for 15 laptops and a wireless access point.
Each additional instructional classroom would need equipment estimated at $2,500, not counting desks and chairs, and standard classroom furniture and equipment.  
o     ANNUAL OPERATING COSTS FOR 9-12th GRADES    Baker has previously told the School Board that it would cost about $330K to provide the program to students in grades 9-12, with 30 students in each class, on an annual basis.  
The model provided by Baker included 20 students from King George at each grade level, with an additional 10 students total from the three out-of-county divisions.
Baker’s estimate included $310,200 for salary and benefits for five teachers on 11-month salaries along with nearly $20K for textbooks, instructional supplies and copying costs.
Baker had said those operating costs could be offset by tuition payments, if the School Board decides to allow students from outside the county.  
If $4,000 were charged per student, it could offset costs up to $160K per year if 10 students per grade were allowed from out-of-county schools.
But with Caroline and Colonial Beach unable to commit for the coming year, that would leave only 2-4 students from Westmoreland to possibly participating if King George establishes a site.
But a decision must be made soon.  The School Board was previously informed that if students from those counties are to be included, it would also require approval from the state. 

By Phyllis Cook, Staff Reporter

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