Halifax County School Board reviewed a plan on Aug. 25 at a work session that would address aging facilities, a decline in population and compensation increases for employees.
It included closing three elementary schools, addressing Halifax County High School by renovation or rebuild and using funds to fix the teacher compensation scale as well as enact a scale for support staff.
No action was taken at that work session, but school board members plan to address what steps need to be taken next when they meet Monday evening.
The meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. in the public meeting room of the Mary Bethune Office Complex in Halifax.
Addressing school facilities, especially the high school, has been part of ongoing discussions for years now, and the school system has a pot of money to choose from thanks to an increase in sales tax that was voted on by county residents in November of 2019.
County staff has estimated the sales tax will generate $2,845,337.41 in the first year.
Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg outlined a plan to the school board at the work session that included using the sales tax money, savings from consolidating schools, $3,800,000 in carryover capital funds, $4 million in ESSER III funds from the American Rescue Plan act, funds from a 2 cents increase in real estate taxes and $66 million from the county’s debt service to either rebuild or renovate the high school.
The plan also included the idea of using approximately $37 million to renovate Sydnor Jennings and Scottsburg elementary schools to accommodate students after the consolidation of schools. Clays Mill Elementary, Meadville Elementary and Sinai Elementary were the three schools suggested to close.
Closing those three schools, Lineburg said, could generate $6,679,000 million in utility and maintenance savings and $69,225,000 in personnel savings over 30 years.
In addition to addressing facilities, Lineburg also suggested the board use end-of-the-year funding of $2,567,849 for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years to help address the teacher salary scale.
Lineburg also presented a graded pay scale for support staff that day that would cost $797,800.
At that school board retreat, ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman offered to make a motion to send the superintendent’s proposal to supervisors, leaving open the possibility of going the route of design-bid-build for the high school, and enacting the changes to the teacher pay scale by December.
The motion was seconded by ED-8 trustee Walter Potts. However, at that time the work session was only halfway over and school board chairman Kathy Fraley said she would like to hear the rest of the presentations that afternoon before any decision was made. Garner-Coleman then withdrew her motion.
Board members took no other action that day.
In addition to the next steps on compensation and facilities, director of instructional technology and division testing Dr. Jeanie Hawks plans to give a report on Standard of Learning test scores.
The SOL scores for the 2020-2021 school year were released in August.
Halifax County’s 2020-2021 SOL pass rates were 58.53% for English: reading, 28.77% for English: writing, 29.49% for history and social science, 29.25% for mathematics and 37.82% for science.
Those scores reflect a marked decline from the school district’s 2018-2019 pass rates of 73.46% for English: reading, 63.57% for English: writing, 69.62% for history and social science, 79.54% for mathematics and 75.15% for science.
These test scores did not count towards the school division’s accreditation.
A health update by Lineburg also is expected for Monday evening along with required notifications presented by assistant superintendent Valdivia Hall.
The school system has reported positive COVID-19 cases listed on their website, and between Aug. 30 and Saturday, 20 positive cases of COVID-19 were identified in local schools. The online database does not indicate if these are students or employees.
For citizen comments, Jack Dunavant had signed up to speak by Wednesday, when the agenda is distributed to the public. Individuals do not have to sign up prior to the meeting to speak.
At the end of the meeting, school board members are slated to go into closed session to discuss personnel matters.