Funds for considering adding a writing specialist and to cover a potential increase in minimum wage have been calculated into the proposed 2020-21 budget.

That was part of the budget update interim finance director Robert Aylor provided to Halifax County School Board Monday evening.

Previously school board members had requested they consider hiring a writing specialist and/or providing a writing lab to include public speaking and education on proper presentations.

Aylor said the cost associated with that is $65,000.

During his presentation, ED-5 Trustee Freddie Edmunds questioned if they were prepared to handle an increase to the minimum wage.

“We have built in that cushion,” said Aylor, who noted that is an unknown at this time, but with all the talk surrounding it, they’re preparing for it.

Virginia’s minimum wage currently sits at $7.25.

Earlier this month, Gov. Ralph Northam and legislative leaders announced an 11-point Virginia 2020 Plan that included raising the minimum wage.

In addressing other topics that were brought to Aylor’s attention at the board’s previous budget work session, he said the state allocates $110,143 specifically for special education homebound.

He said the current hourly rate is $20 per hour, but they’re recommending it be increased to $25 with travel paid as needed.

The school system currently has five regular math teachers, Kelly Hudson, Dianne Talbott, Meagan Smith, Kanette Hollis and Heather Smith, who have a math specialist endorsement.

There are three math specialists, Lynn Good at South Boston Elementary School, April Smith at Sinai Elementary School and Annette Duffer at Sydnor Jennings Elementary School.

Elementary schools without math specialists are Clays Mill, Cluster Springs, Meadville and Scottsburg, said Aylor.

He also said it has been suggested to increase the price tag for a proposed coordinator of school safety from $50,000 to $65,000.

When looking into how much it would cost to get uniforms for all school custodians to address safety concerns, he said it would cost approximately $9,000 annually to purchase the uniforms.

To lease the uniforms and have the employee launder the uniforms, he said it would cost $4,264 annually.

To fully rent the uniforms and have the vendor launder the uniforms, he said it would cost $9,380.

The interim finance director also provided a comparison of teacher salary scales for Halifax County, Charlotte County, Campbell County, Danville City, Mecklenburg County and Pittsylvania County schools.

ED-2 Trustee Roy Keith Lloyd said he is concerned about the middle of the scale roughly in the 10 to 22 years of experience, and asked Aylor to form a comparison of those years with other districts.

ED-4 Trustee Jay Camp questioned state funding, and Aylor said, “additional revenue could potentially come through,” but it was all contingent.

ED-1 Trustee Kathy Fraley suggested the board look into hiring two more school psychologists.

The board also took the following actions:

• Reviewed a six-year capital improvement schedule for all of the county schools that included $956,700 worth of projects for FY2020-2021.

Vice-chairman Sandra Garner-Coleman asked how much was in the budget for major maintenance, and Aylor said, “$63,000.”

Lloyd also asked director of maintenance and operations Steve Brumfield how much of the work orders is targeted at the high school. Brumfield said over half come from the high school.

• Heard a reminder for school board training sessions on Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Southern Virginia Higher Ed Center and on Monday, Feb. 10 at the high school library;

• Appointed the student discipline committee, which will consist of all school board members on a rotating schedule;

• Appointed Lloyd to serve on the superintendent’s teacher advisory committee;

• Appointed Lloyd and Coleman to serve on the facilities study committee;

• Appointed Fraley and ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts to the student behavior committee;

• Heard a student learning spotlight from Ashley Overstreet a Scottsburg Elementary School teacher who presented a video from her class who recently completed a digital escape room;

• Recognized former Gazette-Virginian sports editor Joe Chandler for endless promotion of Halifax County students and athletes in his 43-year career with a certificate for appreciation and a lifetime sports pass;

• Recognized students Sarah Watts, Sara-Beth Talley, Dezheona Mitchell, Frida Hernandez, Natalia Howell, McKenna Anderson, Morgan Pugh, Mollie Conner, Kaya Jordan, Nicholas Hamlette, Jayda Younger and Hunter Hazelwood for taking a risk and showing great courage and passion while providing student news through an online broadcast with Comets News Center;

• Recognized Pam Eakes, Donna Elliott, Susie Milam, Dianne Talbott and Kelly Franco for their efforts in putting together the early gifted program’s market day; and

• Heard from Brian Brown, the Halifax County Industrial Development Authority executive director, who introduced himself, and told the board he is excited to help with education programs.

Potts was absent from the meeting.

Ashley Hodge reports 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