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Halifax County trustees to resume work on high school upgrade / February 10, 2020

The Halifax County School Board will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Halifax County High School with business to discuss on either replacing or renovating the tattered HCHS facility.

Trustees are expected to appoint a third representative to a joint committee with the Halifax County Board of Supervisors that is tasked with issuing a recommendation on what to do about HCHS. In December, the School Board named Sandra Garner-Coleman and Roy Keith Lloyd to serve on the joint panel, leaving one spot open for an incoming trustee in the aftermath of the November election. That seat is set to be filled tonight.

The Board of Supervisors has yet to announce which of its members will serve on the panel. However, the first meeting of the joint committee has been scheduled — for Feb. 14 at 2 p.m. in Halifax.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mark Lineburg said he and County Administrator Scott Simpson have agreed on the mid-February meeting date. Town hall-style meetings with members of the public are expected to follow soon after.

“It’s time to make a decision on what we want to do,” said Lineburg, citing estimates that it will cost Halifax County around $400,000 for each month it waits to begin construction work at the high school, whether that work takes the form of a replacement building or a full-scale renovation.

In January, members of the School Board listened to a Powerpoint presentation by interim secondary education director Scott Worner that laid out the pros and cons of the three approaches for modernizing HCHS: repair, renovation and replacement.

The presentation noted that replacing the high school facility would cost the most money, but offer the longest lifespan and potentially the best value for Halifax County. Worner’s presentation also suggested that Halifax could cover most of the cost of a new high school building with the proceeds of the county’s new 1-cent sales tax, which goes into effect in July.

In November, voters overwhelming approved the one-percent sales tax referendum. It is projected to raise about $100 million over 30 years to pay for school capital improvements.

Lineburg said the Feb. 14 meeting of the joint school committee will include a presentation by financial experts with Davenport, which advises the Board of Supervisors on budget and fiscal matters. Supervisors and trustees also will hear the same presentation that Worner offered at the January meeting of the School Board.

Lineburg said the $400,000 pricetag for each month that goes by without a decision should factor into the committee’s thinking.

“We have worked the numbers and we know those numbers are accurate. That $400,000 number is accurate …. In the next couple of months, there’s no reason we can’t make a decision on the direction we want to go,” Lineburg said.

In other business at tonight’s School Board meeting:

» Director of Student Services Jeff Davis is set to bring an updated version of a proposed student drug testing policy to trustees for their consideration. The drug testing policy applies to students taking part in extracurricular activities such as athletics. Two members of the board, Garner-Coleman and ED-8 trustee Walter Potts, have voiced strong opposition to the proposed testing.

» Trustees will hear from Lineburg and maintenance director Stephen Brumfield on a capital improvements plan for Halifax County Public Schools.

» Interim finance director Robert Aylor will present a teacher salary comparison for Halifax teachers and their peers in nearby school districts.

Tonight’s meeting is open to the public, except for a portion in closed session to consider personnel matters and employee contracts.

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