The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
CHALLENGING PROGRAM EXPANDS
BY LINDLEY ESTES
This fall, students in Dan McNamara’s Algebra 2 class will seek practical applications for the equations they’ll learn.
For example, when their Earth Science class does lessons about the solar system, they’ll cross over disciplines and find the equation for planetary orbit in math class.This interdisciplinary study is possible because the students in his class will be part of King George County’s first Commonwealth Governor’s School site.
The “school within a school” for gifted, talented and high-achieving students will open to about 50 ninth- and 10th-graders in September at King George High.
Previously, King George high-schoolers seeking greater academic challenges have attended the regional Commonwealth Governor’s School at Stafford High. However, the number of students is limited there, and King George students faced a long bus ride to and from class every day.
King George students who attended Governor’s School in Stafford and are rising 11th- and 12th-graders will remain at Stafford High.
The opening of a Commonwealth Governor’s School at King George High means that 25 students from each grade can attend, rather than the five who were allowed to join in at Stafford.
King George also will accept five students in each grade from Caroline County to the new Governor’s School.
Caroline is new to the Commonwealth Governor’s School system and does not yet have its own site yet.
Some 565 students from Stafford, Spotsylvania, King George and Caroline are enrolled this fall in the regional Commonwealth Governor’s School.
The curriculum at the new school is the same as at other Commonwealth Governor’s School locations. Ninth-graders will take Honors English 9, Honors Algebra II, Honors Earth Science and Advanced Placement European History.
Tenth-graders will take Honors English 10, Honors Math Analysis with Discrete Topics or Honors Geometry with Trigonometry, Dual Enrollment Biology with Environmental Emphasis, Advanced Placement U.S. Government and Politics.
Merri Kae VanderPloeg, director of the Commonwealth Governor’s School, said that the King George school has been in the works for several years.
Five new teachers, including McNamara, were added for the governor’s school and also will teach students non-Governor’s School classes at King George High.
The students will do core classes with the Governor’s School and then go to gym and extracurricular activities at their home high school.
“You can be a King George Fox and a Governor’s School student,” VanderPloeg said.
She said bringing in new teachers for the program benefits the entire school.
“This will boost interest in other accelerated classes,” she said. “There is also the potential to increase the number of accelerated courses and extracurriculars.”
She said that robotics programs in other branches of the Commonwealth Governor’s School have seen substantial interest from students in the main schools.
She also said that having a Governor’s School exposes school systems to new learning tools.
“We’re at the cutting edge of technology,” she said.
Governor’s School students started using iPad tablets in classrooms. Stafford school officials took notice and are introducing them around the division.
She said that Stafford County also is considering the English textbook that the Governor’s School uses.
McNamara, who came to King George from Colonial Beach, has worked with three summer residential Governor’s Schools programs. He said “gifted education and governor’s schools are a passion of mine. They are important because they meet the needs of a gifted population of students that needs to be reached.”
McNamara is also excited about the team-teaching possibilities the school opens up.
The Governor’s School broadcasts some of its classes to all its sites, usually once per week.
“If there’s a teacher who is passionate about a subject, they can do that broadcast,” he said.
McNamara hopes to do a broadcast on Math Analysis, since he is particularly interested in that subject. He will also teach trigonometry classes at King George High.
McNamara said that the Governor’s School opens a dialogue among the disciplines for students and offers them a wide range of perspectives.
“It’s a feather in the division’s cap,” he said.
Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976