By MIKE WILLIAMS
The Southwest Virginia Governor’s School has been located in Pulaski County since its inception in 1989. The school began with 45 students and inhabited a six-classroom building on the campus of Pulaski County High School. In 2006, the school was re-located to the old Northwood Elementary School where it remains today.
That, however, is set to change by the end of the current school year as Pulaski County Public Schools is planning to end the school’s free ride.
“Pulaski County Public Schools has maintained a facility and provided fiscal management services free of charge since the inception of the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School in 1989,” said Dr. Kevin Siers, Pulaski County School Superintendent.
“During this time, we have seen interest in the program from our students decline and our enrollment has dropped by over 80 percent.”
Siers added that several years ago, local school officials approached the Governor’s School governing board to request assistance with replacing the roof on the Northwood building, but only one of the other participating
school divisions was willing to contribute.
“Since there was not a resolution to this issue, we decided to no longer provide a free facility for their use and have requested that another school division assume the responsibility of fiscal management for the program,” Siers explained.
He noted that Pulaski County Public Schools has been working diligently with the SWVGS governing board to identify an alternate location for their use, which includes possibly relocating to a local community college or to the campus of Radford University.
“It is expected that they will transfer operations to one of these options during the summer of 2023,” Siers said.
“Pulaski County Public Schools would like to assure parents that we are committed to continuing to offer our students the opportunity to attend the Southwest Virginia Governor’s School wherever it might be located in the future. We are just no longer willing to use Pulaski County taxpayer dollars to be the sole provider of facility maintenance and fiscal management services for a program in which very few Pulaski County students
participate,” Siers said.
Once the old Northwood Elementary School building is vacated, the Pulaski County School Board will make a decision about how it might be used for future educational purposes, Siers noted.
Rebecca Phillips is the current director of the school and has been since 2008. The school, which serves gifted and high-achieving students, currently offers over a dozen semester courses to students in nine school divisions, including Carroll, Floyd, Galax, Giles, Pulaski, Montgomery, Radford, Smyth and Wythe. Bland and Grayson have sent students to the school in the past, but currently are non-participating divisions.
Approximately 130 students from 16 different high schools attend the school currently.
According to its website, the Governor’s School is a shared-time program in which students attend in the morning and then return to their home high schools for afternoon classes.
Students take math, science, technology, research, study skills and career education classes at the school and attendance at the school is an excellent way to prepare for college, according to the school’s website.
The Southwest Virginia Governor’s School is one of 19 Academic Year Governor’s Schools in Virginia.
“We will continue to be part of the Governor’s School program and will make it available to our students who want to attend and meet the admission criteria. It is a great program, but I believe the fact that we have increased the dual enrollment offerings at PCHS over the past decade or so has decreased student interest in it,” Siers concluded.
He said Pulaski County currently sends nine students to the Governor’s School.