2 Richmond County schools added to Bible study program

Two more schools have been added to the Christian Release Time Program in Richmond County, an off-campus Bible study that takes place during the school day’s non-academic hours.

The Richmond County Board of Education voted Tuesday to add A. Brian Merry and Wilkinson Gardens Elementary schools to the six schools already participating.

“They just get really good moral training,” said board member Helen Minchew. “These people are good role models, and they care for these children.”

Students in the program memorize Bible verses, speak in front of their peers and are taught lessons from the Scripture, according to Laura H. Garner, the program director for Christian Learning Centers of Augusta, which sponsors the program.

The host churches near the participating schools provide volunteers who work with the children, with about three teachers for every 10 students.

The program takes place one hour a week for 20 weeks during noncore subjects such as physical education and music.

Wilkinson Gardens Principal Rickey Lumpkin said his fourth-grade pupils will begin the program in the fall, and the school could possibly add more grades in the future.

“I’m looking at every opportunity to engage our students in reading,” Lumpkin said. “The Bible is a great tool for that.”

Board member Jimmy Atkins said there is no conflict with church and state separation laws because the program takes place off school property, does not use school staffers and is not required. Parents must sign consent forms and be willing for their children to participate.

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