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Halifax County School Board ponders next steps on pay, facilities plan

SoVaNow.com / September 13, 2021
The Halifax County School Board will continue its discussion tonight on a plan put forward by Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg to raise teacher pay and build a new high school, while consolidating elementary schools.

The trustees will hold their September monthly meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Bethune Complex in Halifax. It will be the first gathering since President Biden issued a set of executive orders Thursday requiring large employers to impose conditions on unvaccinated employees. The workplace safety rules require workers to either get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing for the virus. Local school divisions are required to mandate vaccines for federally-funded teachers, such as those with the Head Start program, and President Biden called on governors to set vaccine or testing requirements for school employees in their states.

In June, ED-8 trustee Walter Potts called for making vaccination a condition of employment with Halifax County Public Schools. His proposal did not draw a vote by the board, but the issue is likely to resurface in tonight’s debates.

Health, the high school and teacher pay are the lead topics on the meeting agenda.

In late August, the superintendent unveiled a plan that he said would give Halifax County enough money to afford a replacement building for HCHS, modernize and consolidate elementary schools and put Halifax County at the top of teacher pay in the region.

To generate the needed funding, the Board of Supervisors will be asked to raise the real estate tax rate by 2 cents — money that would go towards teacher salaries — and three elementary schools would have to close: Clays Mill, Meadville and Sinai. Students at the three schools would be reassigned to other facilities, included expanded Scottsburg and Sydnor Jennings.

Lineburg said that he has submitted his cost and savings projections to Baker Tilly, LLP, a public accounting and consulting firm, asking its experts to verify that the plan is fiscally sound. “I’m confident they’re accurate [numbers] but they’re looking at that right now,” he said.

His proposals to reform the teacher salary scale have received a positive early reception from the Board of Supervisors — two members, Jeff Francisco and Garland Ricketts, each expressed a willingness to back the 2-cent real estate tax for higher teacher pay — but Lineburg cautioned that the plan must be considered as a whole, since ongoing money for pay raises is dependent on wringing savings out of the current personnel and facilities budgets.

“It’s hard to talk about these issues without looking at the long term impact at the elementary level,” in terms of facility savings and personnel reductions that would take place over time. “I’m trying to put together the pieces so we can get to a decision,” Lineburg said.

The School Board and Board of Supervisors are set to hold a joint meeting on Oct. 26 at the HCHS auditorium to see if members can come together around a long-term plan for facilities and teacher compensation.

If the two boards can reach a consensus, it would be a “monumental” step forward for Halifax County, said Lineburg.

“We’ve always lagged on [teacher] compensation, we know that,” said Lineburg. “We’ve got to come up with an answer for the high school. If we can get those accomplished, it would be really historic for our county.”

In other items on tonight’s School Board agenda:

» trustees will hear from testing coordinator Jeanne Hawks on Halifax County’s showing on 2021 SOL tests, administered at a time when were students coping with the effects of missed time at school for most of the year.

» Linenburg and head nurse Tina Slabach will present updated information on COVID-19’s impact on the 2021-22 school year.

» Trustees are set to hear from Tanaya Brandon, the student representative to the School Board, and Jack Dunavant of Halifax has signed up to speak during the citizens comments’ portion of the meeting.

The School Board will gather in the second floor meeting room of the Bethune Complex in Halifax. It is open to the public and starts at 6:30 p.m.

(Editor's note: This story has been corrected from the original, which stated that President Biden's vaccine and testing public safety orders for large employers apply to local school divisions. This is the case in only limited circumstances, spelled out above.)

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Comments

1. Student population is declining.
2. We have several buildings that are in good shape and they want to close them
3. If they want a new high school remodel one of the older elementary schools on each end of the county and have two schools.
Should not need anymore teachers and the number of students will remain the same. WOuld not need as many admin etc.
If that is not approved, then slowly remodel the current HS one wing at a time. I would suggest a bond issue like Pittsylvania co did. 40-60 million tops. As for pay
How many people get 8-10 weeks off in the summer, three days for Thanksgiving, approximately 2 weeks for Christmas a week spring break. Usual contract is 200 days and teachers work about 190. People do your research.

Comments

Wonder if TODD MOSER will show for this meeting. Should he?

Comments

NEW SCHOOL THOUGHTS. So I am really torn on this. The county has been kicking the ball down the road too long. Can the county really afford a $100 plus million dollar lproject. I was just looking at Blair-construction site in Danville. They have done a lot of education projects, new and renovate, elementary, middle school, and high school for far less than the $100 million or even half that. Take a look at their site, and click projects, and then education. Oh, and I think they built south Boston elementary.

Comments

Declining school population-less students, do not need a new school building. Terrible time to go into a large debt, the county is not attracting any new industries. Economy sucks. I cannot think of any reason to raise the taxes in this poverty stricken area.


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