Albemarle County soon will have students serving on its School Board, according to a revised policy approved Thursday.
Students will rotate through three-month terms starting April 1, July 1, Oct. 1 and Jan. 1. The first meeting with a student representative will be April 2.
“I’m really pleased about it,” said Jonno Alcaro, chairman of the School Board. “I think it’s going to give us a significant voice from the students.”
The student representatives will be non-voting members of the board but will have a chance to say how they would have voted on a particular matter. They’ll also make short presentations at each meeting.
Students wouldn’t participate in closed sessions but would receive all other board materials, except items related to individual students or personnel issues.
The School Board first discussed adding a student member in October.
Per the revised policy, each high school principal will give the superintendent four student nominees who are either sophomores or juniors. Then, the superintendent will narrow the list to eight students and then provide those names to the School Board.
In March, the board will pick four students and two alternates.
Aubrey Israel Hampton, speaking during public comment, said she is worried about principals recommending students for the position.
“Might that look like teachers identifying gifted students and potentially present some of the same issues that we see in the disparities of the gifted program?” she said. “Why not announce to the students that the School Board will now have a student rep, and let the ones who are interested apply.”
Schools Superintendent Matt Haas said the division will let all high school students know about the application, which will ask students for basic information and what they would like to do on the School Board.
Haas said the application is not intended to be a barrier for participation.
“We do not want to repeat the, I think, exclusive practices that we’ve had as a school system over the past decades,” he said.
Since Alcaro first broached the idea, board members have worried about how to ensure that the students on the board are representative of the school division.
Alcaro said he wants the representatives to be diverse “in every way,” such as the schools they attend, and their race and socioeconomic status, but added that the board might not get everyone represented in the first year.
More than 40 other school divisions in Virginia have students serving on their boards, including those in the cities of Charlottesville and Waynesboro and Fluvanna and Nelson counties.