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City School Board approves new grading scale

Fredericksburg students will have a new, expanded grading scale next year.

Under the new scale approved Monday night by the city School Board, students would receive an A for a score of 90 to 100. Now, middle and high school students in the city must earn a 94 or above to receive an A.

Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline and King George counties already use a 10-point grading scale.

The new scale is for students in grades 3–12.

Hugh Mercer Elementary uses an entirely different grading scale, and that will not change.

The board decided not to make the grading scale retroactive, so grades before the Sept. 1 change will remain the same.

Also, grades in the three categories of classes will be weighed differently for grade-point averages. Advanced-placement and dual-enrollment classes will be worth more points, for example.

Several parents of students at James Monroe High School attended the School Board meeting and spoke in support of the 10-point grading scale. Many emphasized that changing the scale would make Fredericksburg students equal to those in the surrounding counties and around the country.

Football coach Rich Serbay told the board that the new scale would help his athletes earn scholarships and put them on more equal footing with other athletes in the area.

School officials presented the new grading scale to the board in January and explained the advantages and disadvantages.

Administrators surveyed 134 school divisions in Virginia about their grading scales. Of the divisions that responded, 44 use a 10-point grading scale and 66 do not, according to the presentation.

Regionally, administrators spoke with school officials from Charlottesville and Albemarle, Caroline, Hanover, King George, Louisa, Orange, Prince William, Spotsylvania and Stafford counties. Of those, Hanover is the only locality that does not use a 10-point scale.

In other business Monday, the School Board saw the proposed operating budget for the coming fiscal year for the first time. The $26.2 million budget is 5.29 percent larger than the current year’s spending plan.

It proposes 10 new positions—six full-time and four part-time:

  • One division-wide English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESL) teacher;
  • One program coordinator, who will perform administrative and instructional duties;
  • A part-time social worker;
  • A first-grade teacher;
  • A second-grade teacher;
  • A teacher at Lafayette Upper Elementary;
  • A full-time math teacher at Walker–Grant Middle;
  • A separate Spanish teacher for James Monroe High and Walker–Grant Middle (they currently share a Spanish teacher);
  • A bus driver for a new route.

Superintendent David Melton said the new positions are needed to keep up with enrollment growth. They will cost the division $558,500.

The superintendent’s proposal also calls for an average 3 percent step pay increase for employees.

One percent would cover the increase in what employees pay for Virginia Retirement System (the division also pays 1 percent). The division’s cost would be $208,000.

The other 2 percent would meet demands of an increase proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The school division will get $100,000 from the state to help cover that, but the raises will still cost the school division $738,000.

The School Board did not take any action on the proposed budget Monday. It must be approved by the board and submitted to the City Council for consideration by April 1.

The budget goes into effect July 1.

The School Board also unanimously voted to ask the school division staff to send a request to the City Council to return a school resource officer to Walker–Grant Middle. There’s already a school resource officer at James Monroe High.

The request must go to the City Council because it would be funded by the city, and it would not be part of the division’s budget.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413