Both of the school age children of Virginia Gov.-elect John N. Dalton will complete the academic year in their home town of Radford. Dalton said today, thus deferring a decision on whether the state's first family will use the predominantly black Richmond city schools.
Former Gov. Linwood Holton enrolled his children in Richmond city schools when he took office in 1970, an act that became a symbol of support for the school system at a time when whites were deserting it in favor of both private and suburban public schools.
The Holton action was regarded as especially significant because of the long fight by the state's Democratic political leaders against court-ordered school desegregation. Although the policy of massive resistance to desegregation ended under Democratic Gov. Lindsay Almond in the early 1960s, Holton, a Republican and close ally of Dalton, was the first governor to send his children to the city's desegregated public schools.
Despite this show of support, white fight from the Richmond system continued and the proportion of white children in the schools now has declined to about 10 per cent. Children are assigned to schools on the basis of race in an effort to achieve racial balance under a court-ordered desegregation plan.
Dalton and his wife Edwina (Eddy) have four children, two attending state universities and two attending Radford's five-year high school.
It was always assumed that son Teddy would finish his senior year at Radford. Dalton said in an interview that he and Mrs. Dalton have now decided to let their youngest child, Mary Helen, complete the eighth grade at Radford and then decide where she will live and attend school next year.
All four of the children's grandparents live in Radford.
In the interview, Dalton said, "We have always been public school oriented in our family. I'm not in favor of busing to achieve racial balance in the schools and I don't think that the busing plan brought about by the court decisions here have been good for the schools and the children. But in the end we are going to do what we think is the best for Mary regardless of these issues."
The Daltons' decision means that none of the children of the three recently elected statewide officials will be attending schools in the capital.
Attorney General-elect J. Marshall Coleman and his wife Niki, who were married last summer, each has two children by previous marriages. Coleman's children will remain with his former wife in Staunton. Only one is school age. He is attending Staunton public schools.
Niki Coleman said in an interview that she plans to enroll her son and daughter in private schools. "I think it is important to consider the needs of the individual child and nothing else," she said. She said her children's schooling has been complicated by several moves. Both her son, in elementary school, and daughter, in junior high, began school while living in England.
The Colemans have purchased a house in the Fan district of Richmond, a close-in, townhouse neighborhood. Only the governor is required by the Virginia Constitution to live in the city of Richmond. Coleman's elected predecessor, former Attorney General Andrew P. Miller, lived in Henrico County, where his children attended predominantly white public schools.
Lt. Gov.-elect Charles S. Robb said his two daughters will remain in their present schools in Fairfax County. The lieutenant governorship is a part-time office in Virginia and the Robbs will continue to live in McLean. One Robb daughter attends Kent Gardens, a public elemenatary school, and the other attends Langley School, a cooperative operated by parents of children attending it.