No one spoke during a public hearing for the Halifax County School Board’s fiscal year 2022 budget when they met Monday evening.

The board got its first look at the budget in January that totals $62,495,475 with a possible $38,130,380 from the state and a request of $14,373,726 in local funding.

Finance director Robert Aylor told the board last month that state revenues had increased by $269,370, and the governor’s budget included a 2% bonus for teachers.

To give teachers and non-teachers a 2% bonus on base pay, Aylor said that would cost $643,096. Therefore, he said they’re requesting an additional $373,726 in local revenue.

He also said Monday that he was still waiting on the General Assembly for the final numbers from the state.

Last year, the school system received $14,000,000 from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, $400,000 less than the year before.

March 29 is the deadline for submission of budget to the board of supervisors.

Also Monday evening, the board looked at grades for this academic school year and an option for virtual school next year.

In looking at this year’s grades, superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg said, “our failure rate is higher than it’s ever been.”

When looking at the grades at Halifax County High School, the failure rate for the 2020-2021 school year is 21.40%, compared to 5.88% last school year.

At Halifax County Middle School, the failure rate thus far is 11.83%, compared to 1.17% during the 2019-2020 school year.

The superintendent said they have been in talks about their summer program as well as recovery programs at all the grade levels.

“We have to get this failure rate down,” said Lineburg.

The elementary school grades are different this year. Instead of A-F, they receive an S for satisfactory, N for needs improvement, IC for incomplete or U for unsatisfactory.

The superintendent also gave an update on a Regional Virtual Academy, an option they’re looking into to provide the option of virtual learning next school year.

“Next year, virtual will be an option for students in grades sixth through twelfth,” said Lineburg.

He, along with Daisy Hicks, superintendent of Buckingham County Schools, Paul Nicholsm, superintendent of Mecklenburg County Schools and Kristy Somerville-Midgette, superintendent of Brunswick County Schools have formed a planning committee to look into this option.

Lineburg said this program would start in the fall for grades sixth through twelfth and would use a Google learning platform with classes following Standards of Quality requirements.

He noted that they couldn’t enroll over 10% of the total population, per division.

“All of this is conceptual,” the superintendent noted. “We’re exploring this.”

He also said a member of the board would represent the county, and the initial cost would be $10,000 to cover the cost of a director, and the school system would pay half of the student enrollment to cover teacher salary costs.

Lineburg said they plan to survey students in the weeks ahead to see if there is an interest in the program next year.

The superintendent also noted that in the end, this might not end up being the virtual option they use next year, but it’s a possibility.

The school board also tabled a discussion on possibly having a tiebreaker on the board to give its members more time to review information.

They also unanimously agreed to set Feb. 23 as the date to have a virtual school board retreat from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and unanimously voted to amend the sick leave policy for bus drivers to give them an additional sick day, giving them five per year.

ED-7 trustee Keith McDowell also took a moment to thank all the bus drivers and car drivers for the “tremendous work” they do.

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com