A controversial question was answered by the Staunton City School Board on Monday, February 14th, 2005. Should elementary school kids continue taking classes in the Weekday Religious Education program during school hours?
Over 800 elementary students in Staunton voluntarily leave campus every week to attend bible lessons. Since 1929, the Weekly Religious Education Association has been giving bible classes to students in Staunton's four elementary schools during their school hours. First, second and third graders are taken to nearby churches for the lessons.
In November 2004, several parents brought the WRE program before the Staunton City School Board. They said that kids who opt out of the lessons are ostracized, and the program is divisive. They also said those kids have little to do during that time because teachers are not allowed to introduce new material during the Bible classes. Parents claimed that teachers should be using that time for regular education.
Parents now want the classes eliminated, or the program changed. The school board disagrees however, and on Monday night, February 14th, the school board voted 5 to 1 to keep the bible studies up and running, at least until next year.
Only one board member, Reverend Dr. Edward Scott, voted to end the bible lessons. Rev. Dr. Scott says they should be conducted after school, and not during class time. With Monday night's vote, the board agreed to conduct a year-long review of the program, and to reevaluate its value next year in order to recommend possible changes.