When the school board meets Monday night at 6:30 p.m. in the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax, Dr. Scott Worner, interim director of secondary education, is expected to lead a facility discussion on the latest plans and proposals for Halifax County High School, while Jeff Davis, student services/accountability director, is slated to again review the potential for random drug testing of the interscholastic program.
HCHS facility discussion
Monday, July 22, at 2 p.m. was the deadline for architectural and engineering proposals to be submitted, and Grimm + Parker Architects and English Construction slid theirs in just in time to be considered for the new design and build of Halifax County High School.
Grimm + Parker previously had submitted a proposal on their own along with Moseley Architects and RRMM Architects who were selected by a facilities review committee to be interviewed out of seven architectural firms who submitted proposals.
Around the same time, Branch Builds, who paid a $10,000 fee to the school division to have its package considered, joined forces with RRMM Architects to submit its proposal, which was accepted. Branch Builds renovated the middle school here 12 years ago.
Moseley Architects is the firm that conducted the study of the current high school for the school board before estimating it would cost $88 million to renovate and upgrade the high school and $99 million to build a new facility.
With English Construction teaming up with Grimm + Parker with its own proposal, the facilities review committee was slated to hear a presentation from the company.
The Public-Private Education and Infrastructure Act of 2002 “enables public bodies to partner with private entities to bring private sector expertise to bear on public projects and encourage innovative approaches to financing construction and renovation.”
The board approved PPEA guidelines in December.
After reviewing English Construction and Grimm + Parker’s proposal, the committee was expected to recommend an architectural firm or construction/architectural firm from the PPEA pool to the school board.
Once a firm has been selected, the site will then be confirmed, stakeholder’s input will be compiled for the development of the conceptual design, and a timeline for construction will be developed.
Worner explained much work is being done behind the scenes such as deciding the best space configurations.
“The design process must consider all aspects of the school division’s needs, building code regulations and financial constrictions,” he said. “Specific facility construction costs will be developed from this work, which will allow for appropriate funding strategies. A final school facility design will be presented to the Halifax County School Board once funding for the project has been secured.”
Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg has noted a sense of urgency for the board to select a builder in time for a plan to be presented to voters in November when a referendum will be held on whether to approve a 1-cent local sales tax that can be used to upgrade the high school.
At its meeting last week, the Halifax County Board of Supervisors requested through a resolution that the sales tax referendum be placed on the ballot.
Meanwhile, “Team Halifax,” a mix of community, business and elected leaders, are “spearheading a movement towards educating the public to the importance of this project with the goal of overwhelming support by Halifax County voters for a sales tax referendum,” the superintendent explained.
Random drug testing
The possibility of performing random drug tests on students who participate in Virginia High School League activities is slated for school board review again Monday night when Davis presents a review of other schools’ drug testing policies.
School board members declined to take action at last month’s meeting seeking more information about other schools’ policies, so they could determine their own guidelines.
The idea is being introduced as a preventive measure to keep high school students away from drugs, the superintendent explained.
Davis first presented the idea to the board several months ago, and in July he presented prices for the testing to school board members.
The cost would be roughly $15,000 to $20,000 annually, said Davis.
He also said some schools have their nurses trained to handle the testing, but Lineburg said he did not want to go that route.
The superintendent said he preferred if the school system stayed out of the testing procedure and the selection process.
“To me, random means random. If it’s random, then we’re out of it,” said Lineburg.
How often and how many tests performed at a time will be left up to the school system.
In other action Monday night, school board members are expected to take the following actions:
• Recognize Kimberly Gordon’s students who recently attended a five-day YADAPP conference at Longwood University;
YADAPP stands for Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project, and it is a peer-led program for high school students to address underage substance use at the high school level.
“I matter; you matter; we matter,” is the message some Comets students hope to get across with their newly formed organization, “Comets Care.”
It’s a club in the making dedicated to letting Comets know they’re not alone no matter how alone they feel, and members are there to help with mental illness and to address alcohol and drug prevention, according to Gordon.
Southside Wellness Coalition prevention coordinator Kenan Tyner-Smith originally asked Gordon if she would help her start a team the coalition could sponsor from her area — which includes Halifax County, Mecklenburg County and Brunswick County.
She agreed and recruited teacher Wendy Hall as well as Aaliyah Paige, a 17-year-old senior, 14-year-old Jadyn Harlow, 13-year-old Mia Lewis and 14-year-old Brooklyn Morton to join her efforts.
• Hear a report on a potential safety position from the school superintendent;
• Hear a report from the assistant superintendent on required notifications;
• Approve the consent agenda;
• Listen to comments from the superintendent, chairman and vice chairman;
• Receive citizen comments; and
• Go into closed session to discuss personnel before adjourning.