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Halifax trustees tap members to work with supervisors on facilities plan

SoVaNow.com / November 14, 2019
The Halifax County School Board has agreed to form a joint committee with the Board of Supervisors to develop plans for a modernized Halifax County High School and other county school facilities in the wake of last week’s passage of the school sales tax referendum.

Two trustees, Board Chair Sandra Garner-Coleman, ED-3, and Roy Keith Lloyd, ED-2, will make up a School Board subcommittee tasked with meeting with representatives of the Board of Supervisors to develop a comprehensive school facilities plan.

After some debate, the trustees agreed to leave open a third appointment to the subcommittee to allow three trustees-elect — Jay Camp in ED-4, Kathy Fraley in ED-1 and Keith McDowell in ED-7 — to receive consideration for the role once they join the board in January.

“I think the best thing we’ve done with the sales tax is working to get to a consensus,” said Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg, referring to the unanimous support of the School Board and Board of Supervisors in urging passage of the 1 percent local sales tax. “We can do that here [with a joint committee] as well.”

The step toward forming a joint planning committee of the School Board and the Board of Supervisors came during the trustees’ monthly meeting on Monday in Halifax. Trustees considered waiting until January to name the subcommittee members, but heeded Lloyd’s call to begin the process as soon as possible.

“I like the idea” of an early start, he said.

Lineburg said that based on conversations with County Administrator Scott Simpson, he believes supervisors are receptive to the idea of a joint planning committee. Contacted Wednesday, Simpson said it will be up to board members to decide, but in preliminary discussions they have signaled their support.

“That would be the plan, to work together to come up with a solution to go forward,” said Simpson. When supervisors may choose the subcommittee members is a separate question, he added. “I don’t know if they will want to do it in December or January.

“We’re definitely interested in working with the School Board to put together the right project for the community,” Simpson said.

While no timetable has been set to come up with an answer for the high school — either renovating the tattered HCHS facility or building a replacement — Simpson pointed out that “right now, interest rates are favorable, so that makes any version of the project more affordable.”

Something else that must be considered is whether the $100 million payoff over 30 years from the 1-cent sales tax is enough by itself to finance an all-new high school, or a major HCHS renovation, without other sources of tax revenue.

“I think that’s what this committee will end up determining from talking with our financial advisors,” said Simpson.

Otherwise during their brief monthly session, the school board recognized 13 fathers in the community who have banded together in a “Father Forever” program, offering mentoring and companionship for boys without father figures in their homes.

The volunteers have joined boys for fast-food snacks and other “wholesome activities,” said Garner-Coleman, who hailed the example the men have set for young males. She lamented that “the common denominator” in school discipline cases involving boys is the lack of a strong father figure in the household.

Garner-Coleman said she did not intend to detract from the success of single mothers in raising their children the right way. But when that doesn’t happen, the absence of a father in the home is usually a key factor whenever young males get in trouble.

Before volunteers are allowed to serve as mentors, they must be referred by the school principal, and the primary caregiver in the home must agree.

Also, trustees voted Monday to have a member of the high school student body to serve alongside the School Board as a non-voting member and youth liaison. The arrangement, used in counties such as Lunenburg, Charlotte and Pittsylvania, “would be a great way for us to have student involvement” in school decision making, said Lineburg.

“I don’t see how it can hurt — I think it would be a great idea,” said ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds. Todd Moser of ED-6 added that “we’ve got to have some input from our young people” on planning for the high school.

Garner-Coleman offered another reason to support the idea: “I think our young people need to connect with and understand our governmental system.

“We’re all getting older,” she added.



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