By Kim Walter
For the first time in 36 years, the Regional Spelling Bee will not take place.
After three years serving as the sponsor of the Bee, The Community Foundation of the Northern Shenandoah Valley is seeking a new sponsor for the annual event, according to a news release from the organization.
Ken Rice, the foundation's president, said the organization stepped forward a number of years ago to assume sponsorship from The Winchester Star.
"Unfortunately, we are no longer able to provide the volunteer support necessary to continue sponsoring the event and we will not be holding a Regional Spelling Bee in March," he said in the release. "The Regional Spelling Bee enjoys a rich history in our community and it's our hope that a business or civic organization that has the resources required to host the bee will come forward to sponsor the event in the future."
The Regional Spelling Bee, which has been held in Winchester for the past 36 years, involves students from public and private schools in Winchester as well as Clarke, Frederick and Warren Counties and home-schooled students.
The winner of the bee advances to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.
Due to the lack of plans for the regional competition, all four participating school systems have decided not to hold division-level spelling bees this year.
David Sovine, superintendent of Frederick County Public Schools, said the emphasis on reading, writing and spelling in classrooms will not change as a result of the regional event being canceled.
He said that the division would not ask staff to devote "the many hours necessary" to hold a series of bees in order to determine which students would represent divisions at the regional level.
"Should a sponsor emerge to finance and provide the volunteer support necessary for a Regional Spelling Bee to be held during the 2014-2015 school year, we are all committed to restoring our local efforts and having students compete at the regional level for a spot in the National Spelling Bee," Sovine said.
According to Rice, about $5,000 is needed each year to hold the bee and cover all expenses to send the winner to D.C. for the national event. In addition, the sponsor is expected to provide volunteers and work together with area school divisions to assure success of the event.
Pam McInnis, Warren County Public Schools superintendent, said that before she held her current position she was responsible for coordinating the division-level competitions in the county. She said the task was a little nerve-wracking.
"Just at the division-level, you have to worry about finding judges and locations and students," she said. "There's a lot at stake with these competitions."
McInnis said that without a sponsor, she doesn't believe any of the participating school divisions are in the position to sponsor the regional bee and send a child on to the national competition.
She said although students enjoy competing at the local level, it didn't seem right to hold division competitions since they wouldn't be able to go any further than that.
"We don't want to get kids' hopes up," she said. "But I think we're all hopeful that a new sponsor will be found so we can get the spelling bees up and running for next school year."
Individuals, businesses or organizations interested in learning more about the responsibilities associated with sponsoring the Regional Spelling Bee should contact Felicia Hart at 540-869-6776.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org