The Grapevine

I heard it through the grapevine

This section of the website offers accurate information about issues currently being discussed in our community.

Information travels quickly via cellphone, social media and conversation. Sometimes, facts can be distorted into fiction as they move through the grapevine. This question-and-answer section aims to distill grapevine sludge into crystal-clear facts.

If you have a question or want to check out something you’ve heard about schools in Chesterfield County, please email


Why does the school system spend so much on administration and so little on instruction?

Actually, the opposite is true. Administrative costs take up less than 4 percent of the FY 2013 budget, and 69 percent of the budget is spent on instruction in Chesterfield County Public Schools. The school system’s administrative costs are lower than the state average for school systems and are significantly below the average administrative costs of a mid-size business, which run about 12 percent.

What is this capital improvement plan I keep hearing about? If the school system needs more money, why not just take some of the funds from the capital improvement plan and use that money to pay teachers?

The capital improvement plan is similar to a family borrowing money to build a home and using that home to secure the loan. The school system’s capital improvement plan is the same. The school system sells bonds to build or renovate schools.

Major maintenance projects, such as air conditioning and heating, and technology account for about half of the school system’s capital improvement plan. Each year, Chesterfield County Public Schools pays about $45 million in debt service.

If Chesterfield County Public Schools did not have a capital improvement plan, then there would be no school renovations, no school additions, no HVAC repairs, no new or replacement technology, no new gyms, etc.

Teachers are paid from the school system’s operating budget, which comes from a different source than the capital improvement plan.


What is up with all the early release days?

On eight days in the 2012-13 school year, Chesterfield County students will be dismissed three hours early. Also, school days now start a few minutes earlier and end a few minutes later than previous years. These strategic changes give teachers time for planning and professional development without taking instructional hours away from students. The end result is expected to be higher academic achievement for students.

I understand that teachers need planning time and professional development, but why can’t early release days be scheduled on Fridays instead of Wednesdays? This would give families extended weekends.

This might make it too tempting to take an even longer weekend and not send students to school on Friday morning. Regular attendance is important for student achievement.

How Things Work

Are there separate honors and upper-honors classes? If so, how are the students selected and why aren’t these classes advertised?

Chesterfield County Public Schools offers honors, dual enrollment and Advanced Placement classes. There is no upper honors designation.

All classes are included in the school system’s course offerings guide, which is available online. Middle and high school students register every spring for classes for the next school year. Schools provide lists of their classes to students to discuss with their parents. After getting recommendations from teachers about which level of classes would be best for them, students work with school counselors to finalize their schedules.

If dual enrollment and Advanced Placement are offered for the same class (for example, English 12), there is no honors class. If a high school does not have a teacher certified to teach dual enrollment, then it offers an honors level and

Advanced Placement. For middle and high school courses that are not offered as dual enrollment or Advanced Placement, only an honors option is available. Honors and dual enrollment courses are weighted 4.5 and Advanced Placement classes are weighted 5.0 when calculating GPA.

How do schools determine which student is placed in which teacher’s class? What criteria are used?

The process for creating classes for the upcoming school year is complex and lengthy. It often begins as early as April and continues through the summer. Classroom teachers, special education teachers, resource teachers and administrators collaborate to create each class. The goal is to create a balance within each classroom based on the instructional, social and emotional needs of the students. Considerations include reading levels, math levels, gender, ethnicity and specific instructional needs for individual students. Also, within some classes there are small clusters of students who are identified as gifted or who are identified for other support programs.

We do not live in Chesterfield County but are willing to pay tuition to Chesterfield County Public Schools. Can our child enroll in Chesterfield?

No. Chesterfield County Public Schools does not accept out-of-county students. Families must prove that they live in Chesterfield County before they can enroll their children.

How can I shift my child to a different Chesterfield school?

If you are seeking a waiver for child-care reasons, then the process starts with the school you want your child to attend.  Download a child-care waiver form, fill it out, have it notarized and take it to the school you want your child to attend. The school will verify your information and consider your request.

If you are seeking a waiver for any reason other than child care, then the process starts with the school your child is zoned to attend. Download this waiver form, fill it out and take it to the school your child is zoned to attend. If the principal approves your request, then he will forward the form to the school you want your child to attend. If that school’s principal also approves, then she will forward your application for a waiver to her director for final approval.

If, at any step along the way, someone determines that a waiver request does not meet school system guidelines, then your request will denied and you will be given information about the appeals process.

Bus transportation is not provided for students who receive a waiver to attend a school outside their attendance zone.

My family is moving to another state. How can I get a refund of my child’s account balance from

Call the school system’s Food and Nutrition Services Office at (804) 743-3717. A staff member will take your information, then request a check for the amount left in your child’s account. It takes about two weeks for the check to be mailed to you.

Several children who attend my child’s school live outside Chesterfield County. Why are they allowed to attend a Chesterfield County school?

They are not. Students must live in Chesterfield County to attend Chesterfield County Public Schools. Please contact the school system’s Office of Pupil Placement (594-1707) if you have information about students who live outside the county but who are in Chesterfield classrooms.

Why do I get so many phone calls from my child’s school?

Schools use a digital system to communicate via phone or email with parents. Calls can be directed to the entire school system, a school, a grade, a classroom, a bus, etc. Student achievement and family involvement increase when parents know what’s going on at their child’s school, and this digital system is an important method of communication.

Why does it take so long to make a decision about closing schools when it is snowing?

Predicting the weather is not easy. Weather-related closings or delays are an operational judgment call, not a policy-based decision.

Many factors play into a decision to close schools or open them late, but one factor is constant: The safety and well-being of students is at the forefront of every decision.

Whenever bad weather is predicted, the school system’s Transportation Department monitors road conditions throughout the county as well as weather reports for changes that could affect road conditions. Some buses are on the road as early as 5:40 a.m., so school employees begin monitoring conditions at 3-4 a.m. School employees also are in contact with the Chesterfield County police and the Virginia Department of Transportation for the latest information on road conditions in the county. As soon as a decision is made to close or delay school, information is posted online and sent to parents, school employees and media outlets

Everything Else

Can I bring homemade cookies or cupcakes for my child’s class to enjoy?

Chesterfield schools encourage healthy snacks and limit celebrations that involve food during the school day. Many students have food sensitivities that can lead to life-threatening reactions. At home, parents can manage the foods their children are exposed to. Managing exposure at school is more of a challenge, so schools take reasonable steps to meet that challenge by asking all parents to follow four simple guidelines:

  1. If you bring food to your child at school, do not bring food for anyone else’s child and do not share your food with any other child.
  2. If you wish to send treats for other students, for a birthday or any other celebration, send non-food treats such as pencils, bookmarks, etc.
  3. Unless specifically asked to do so, do not send any food to school for consumption by other students.
  4. Talk to your children about the problems associated with sharing food at school and discourage them from doing so.

If you have questions, it’s best to ask your child’s teacher about her guidelines for food in the classroom.

Why are high school graduations held at the VCU Siegel Center?

Chesterfield, Henrico and Hanover high schools all hold graduations at the Siegel Center. There are several reasons the Siegel Center is a better location than a high school gym, auditorium or football field.

Families are understandably proud of their graduates, and the Siegel Center allows extended families to attend the ceremony. Most high school auditoriums or gyms could barely hold the graduating seniors plus one parent each without

exceeding the number of people allowed by the fire marshal. The Siegel Center allows 6,000 people to attend each graduation, allowing many family members and friends to attend.

High school graduations have taken place at the Siegel Center for at least a dozen years. Before that, Chesterfield graduations took place at the Richmond Coliseum or the Arthur Ashe Center. In the distant past, high school graduations

were held on football fields, but these outdoor sites are subject to bad weather and temperature extremes, which make it difficult for some senior citizens and people with medical conditions.

Using one site for all 11 high school graduations allows Chesterfield County Public Schools to save money on setup costs. Instead of setting up 11 different sites with sound systems, security, chairs, decorations, etc., we set up one venue and use it 11 times.

Why do schools today offer so much more than they did when I was a student?

Chesterfield County is changing. About five years ago, 20 percent of our students qualified for free or reduced-price lunches. Now, 30 percent

of our students qualify because their families are struggling economically. There are more students who need special education services, as well as more students who qualify for gifted education. Students enter schools with a wide variety of skill sets and knowledge, but schools must bring all students to the same level of academic proficiency

Is there a maximum student-to-teacher ratio established by law? Are there any special considerations for students with disabilities or special needs?

Yes. Virginia’s Standards of Quality require school boards to make sure that divisionwide ratios of students to full‐time equivalent teaching positions (excluding special education teachers, principals, assistant principals, counselors and librarians) are not greater than

  • 24-1 in kindergarten with no class being larger than 29 students; if the average daily membership in any kindergarten class exceeds 24 pupils, a full‐time teacher’s aide is to be assigned to the class
  • 24-1 in grades 1-3 with no class being larger than 30 students
  • 25-1 in grades 4-6 with no class being larger than 35 students
  • 24-1 in English classes in grades 6-12

Also, school boards are to assign instructional personnel in a manner that produces school-wide ratios of students to full‐time equivalent teaching positions of 21-1 in middle schools and high schools.

Virginia regulations governing special education programs state that school boards are to set pupil-teacher ratios for pupils with mental retardation that do not exceed pupil-teacher ratios for self‐contained classes for pupils with specific learning disabilities.