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Staunton School Board Candidates Debate Hot-Button Issues at Forum

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Staunton School Board candidates took part in a forum on April 10 Staunton School Board candidates took part in a forum on April 10
STAUNTON, Va. (WVIR) -

Four seats are up for grabs on the Staunton School Board. On Tuesday, April 10, all seven candidates vying for those seats got a chance to talk about the issues during a forum hosted by the West End Alliance.

Ray Ergenbright, Christine Poulson, Ron Ramsey, Ken Venable, Amy Wratchford, John Hartless, and Natasha McCurdy covered a range of topics at Tuesday night’s forum.

One topic touched on bringing back early release time for weekday religious education, which Ergenbright and Hartless support reinstating.

“The parents should have a choice,” says Ergenbright. “And if they want them to go during the day so they can spend time with them in the evening after school, I think it's important that we provide that opportunity.”

The other five candidates, however, offered reasons for why they're opposed to it.

“As for bringing back weekday religious education, no, I am not in favor of that,” says Ramsey.

Many candidates argue that it would take away from instructional time for children.

“I do not think that religious education should take place during the school day, that's the problem that I have with it,” says Christine Poulson.

Another question posed asked about leveling the playing field for the city’s elementary school students. One idea is to change the three elementary schools to make one a school just for kindergarten and first grade, another for second and third grade, and the last one designated for fourth and fifth grade.

Candidates cited a variety of potential issues with this idea. There was interest across the board in this, but some also raised concerns.

“We really gotta really peel back just a little bit more to make sure if this can work in Staunton,” says Venable.

“I think it's a fascinating idea,” says Wratchford. “I think that transportation is a real issue, and we'd need to figure that out.”

Another topic addressed safety at the schools. Candidates expressed support for the many security measures already in place at Staunton schools, but some say more can still be done.

“It's imperative that we deal with the mental health issues in our school systems,” says Hartless.

Some candidates believe that greater parent involvement could help solve some problems.

“If more parents were there, if everybody was meeting each other, if parents were helping these kids outside the school resolve issues so they're not bringing them to the school,” says McCurdy.

Candidates were also asked about the name of Lee High School. Ergenbright and Hartless support keeping the name. Ramsey, who’s a current school board member, wouldn't say. McCurdy, Wratchford, Poulson, and Venable all support either changing the name or restoring it back to Staunton High School.

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