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Mecklenburg trustees mull color scheme for new Baskerville school

SoVaNow.com / August 04, 2021
In a special called meeting Thursday, July 27, the Mecklenburg County School Board approved interior paint colors for the new consolidated secondary school campus being built in Baskerville and agreed to enter into a contract with Virginia Virtual Academy to offer parents an alternative online education option for their students.

Trustees spent much of Thursday’s meeting debating the color palette that architectural planner Dian Paulin recommended for new secondary school facility.

Paulin said she used her 29 years of experience and understanding of color psychology to suggest a variety of colors designed to promote learning, provide direction, and inspire or motivate students, depending on where the colors would be applied. For example, Paulin said red is “hard for kids with anxieties” but also “stimulates appetite,” and so she limited its use to the cafeteria and gymnasium where one might expect to see the school colors of red, black, and white.

Blues and greens in certain parts of the school are better for students as they promote nature, concentration, calm and stress relief.

She used black minimally as it is depressive and brings on sadness.

Lead architect Billy Upton encouraged trustees to “tell us what you like and don’t like and tell us what you want us to do.”

Rob Campbell said he would leave it to the experts such as Paulin. Glenn Edwards said he was familiar with the concept of “color psychology” and was happy with Paulin’s choices.

Lindell Palmer wanted the athletic directors to weigh in on the color choices for the gymnasium.

Wanda Bailey said she did not like the blue upholstery proposed for the auditorium seating. She said she wanted to see more gray to go with the school colors. “I don’t get the blue if we are going to have a red curtain on the stage … On the terrazzo floor I again don’t get the blue. I saw way more blue than I expected to see. I would prefer to not see so much of it.”

Dora Garner objected to one color swatch that she described as “yellow-green.” She wanted it to be more blue-green. Gloria Smith said she liked “the academy colors” and most of the other colors that would mark entrances to rooms — Paulin called these wayfinding colors. Smith objected to the green wayfinding color that she said was “institutional green.” Palmer then suggested eliminating or changing the tone of the wayfinding green.

Chair Gavin Honeycutt told Paulin, “The people who worked with the school on the logo cautioned us against using either blue or green in the school” as blue being the predominate color for Bluestone High School and green being the Park View High School main color. As one whose profession calls for him to work with colors, Honeycutt said he was “not happy with blue in the auditorium.” He would have preferred to see a mix of charcoal gray and creams with a black stage curtain.

In the end, trustees agreed to move forward with the color choices presented by Paulin. This prompted Edwards to say, “We have nine different opinions tonight but the easiest way out of this is to let the professionals put it together. I think they did a great job.”

In other business, trustees agreed to enter into a contract with Virginia Virtual Academy (VAVA), an online learning program for students in grades K-12.

Virginia Virtual Academy is a tuition-free online public school program that partners parents and students with what VAVA Vice President Peter Stewart said are “highly qualified, Virginia-licensed teachers” who guide and track student progress and achievement through the curriculum. There are frequent face-to-face meetings, events and opportunities for student-to-student interaction.

The cost for these online classes comes from state education funding based on average daily membership, a measure of the number of students enrolled in a school division.

Stewart said while VAVA’s main focus is on enrolling full-time students, the agreement with Mecklenburg County will open up opportunities for MCPS students to enroll in single classes not otherwise offered at either Bluestone or Park View high school.

It will cost the parents nothing, but the school division will pay $200 per student per class per semester.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said MCPS currently has 36 students enrolled in Virginia’s virtual learning program. No new students can enroll in the state’s program for the coming academic year. VAVA is “another online learning option.”

Honeycutt said, “There is a public perception that this county was mandated to offer virtual learning. It is not mandated. We are only required to educate our students.” He expressed concern that because VAVA’s virtual program will not be available to all students — they must qualify under criteria set by MCPS — it will promote inequity.

Stewart responded that school division sets the admission polices for students looking to enroll in VAVA’s programs, not the vendor. He said currently, “there is a higher percentage of Latino and African American students in his school than are enrolled in public schools in the state. More and more minority families are saying this is the right fit for our family now.”

Nichols said he favored entering into an agreement with VAVA. “If the mask mandate is implemented, I envision that many more parents will stay virtual or home school. If students are home schooled, then MCPS loses the ADM [average daily membership].”

Brent Richey agreed to the approve the contract with VAVA but said, “I would have preferred that we not offer virtual at all.” He also said he accepts the premise that MCPS must find a way to educate all students, even those whose parents do not want them involved with in-person learning during the pandemic.

Nichols said during a recent meeting of the joint education committee — divided equally between the Board of Supervisors and School Board — members discussed that the new school building is on schedule to be move-in ready by June 1, 2022. As students will not return to the classroom until after Labor Day, the contractors will have 90 days to complete punch-list items.

Before move-in begins, Nichols said MCPS will identify a “scheduling person” who will oversee all sports activities to “ensure a smooth transition to the combined program, and its 4A designation. The Virginia High School League has recommended MCPS join the western division.

The joint committee next discussed the new school’s traffic patterns and potential problems that buses and student drivers may encounter, but reached no resolution on these issues.

Committee members also raised the potential for Mecklenburg County to receive state and federal aid for new school construction. School funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, passed in the spring by Congress, can only be used for certain school building upgrades, not new construction.

It is estimated the county will need $6 million in debt service funding before renovations and upgrades can begin on the county’s three oldest elementary schools, in Chase City, Clarksville and La Crosse.

Trustees were told that the Board of Supervisors does not favor raising taxes to pay for the construction, and the board recommends deferring a referendum for the one-cent local sales tax for another year.

As a cost-saving measure, supervisors also want the school division to maintain the newer additions at each of the three elementary schools and to incorporate them into any upgrades. Supervisor Claudia Lundy added a new wrinkle to the construction plan, telling committee members that the La Crosse community would prefer to have a new school building erected at a new location.

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