The school board in Staunton, Va., voted last week to keep its practice of allowing elementary pupils to attend Bible study classes during the instructional day.
The board’s 5-1 vote came after some residents of the rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of western Virginia had requested that the board rethink the voluntary Weekday Religious Education program.
They argued that the approximately 20 percent of 1st through 3rd graders who don’t participate in the 30-minute weekly lessons could be stigmatized and lose valuable instructional time because teachers don’t present new material when most students are absent. About 500 students take part in the lessons each week.
The school board reauthorized the program for the next school year and approved a motion stating that the district will ensure that children left at school will be provided with “educationally enriching activities.”
The 2,650-student district is one of about 20 in the state that have such programs, which are paid for by local churches and community groups and typically held at churches, many within walking distance of the schools.
A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2005 edition of Education Week