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New or improved? Halifax County trustees mull costs to redo high school

SoVaNow.com / April 13, 2017


The Halifax Count School Board was advised Monday that Halifax County High School is definitely “a renovative facility” — and it will take an estimated $22.6 million to modernize and upgrade the 282,000 square foot facility, built in 1977.

The estimated cost of renovations compares with a projected $78 million tab for building a new facility, trustees were told at their monthly meeting Monday evening.

Jimmy Epps of B&B Consultants, who presented findings from his consultant’s report, said “the bones of the school” are good and with the needed renovations should serve the county for another 40 years.

Epps said the cost of renovations could fall below $20 million if the county began the work promptly, but the bill will rise to $22.6 million if the work commences after three years.

Superintendent of Schools Merle Herndon, speaking Wednesday, cautioned that the cost estimate for renovation covers the cost of fixing the “heart and lungs” of HCHS and does not include the expense of redoing the interior, such as installing new carpet, flooring and glass. Nor does the sum cover the expense of buying new equipment and furnishings.

“It’s going to be more than $22 million,” she said.

In his report, Epps noted that while HCHS’s basic structure is sound, certain fundamental upgrades need to be made — such as improving handicap accessibility and installing fire alarm and suppression systems. He said he had not yet spent much time looking at what needs to done to the windows and doors throughout the school.

Last summer, trustees approved a contract for B&B to advise them on whether or not the school should be renovated or whether it is necessary to build a new facility.

Epps estimated that construction of a new school, of similar square footage and capable of accommodating 1,600 high school students, would likely cost around $78 million.

Trustees took no action on Monday as they continue to study the report submitted to them by B&B.

Trustees took no action on Monday and will continue to study the report submitted to them by B&B.

Trustees also approved a contract with SoDexo to provide outside food services for the local schools, provided the contract is approved by the state department of education.

Board members also heard from representatives of the Innovative Insurance Company, who said they could help the school division save money on its employee health insurance group policy.

The firm approached Finance Director Jay Camp to discuss its proposal after the School Board previously awarded a contract for insurance next year through another provider. Camp brought up the Innovation Insurance plan Monday night for discussion, hoping to identify $235,000 in possible savings.

“I did it to save money,” Camp said of his decision to take a second look at health insurance. He said the money could be used for teacher salaries, buses or whatever the system deemed necessary.

Camp said he had just learned about the chance to save money on March 17, and felt that he should advise the board of the matter despite the fact the School Board has already awarded the contract.

Sam Irby of Innovative Insurance said he had seen some of the claims from the school division over the past year, and he was sure that his company could save the system at least one-quarter of a million dollars.

He asked that trustees give him and his company two or three weeks to make a formal bid on the health care insurance.

But ED-6 trustee Fay Satterfield, even before Irby spoke, noted that the board had signed a contract with Patsy Akridge, the board’s insurance consultant. “It would not be legal nor ethical,” Satterfield said of any move to renege on the contract.

Akridge, who was praised by trustees for her work over the years to guide the School Board on health care coverage, told board members, “your employees stand to lose” if her contract was rejected.

The board took no action, upholding Akridge’s contract.

Also, trustees once again heard from two speakers on the contentious issue of reductions in coaching stipends.

The first speaker, high school softball coach Woody Bane said people have a number of titles in their lives — teacher, preacher, lawyer, mother or father — but he is proudest to be called “Coach.” Bane pointed out the number of years that several local coaches have given to their jobs, citing Coleman Starnes, Mary Bostick Douglas and Sid Young — longtime coaches at the high school — as examples of those who have served the community well.

“It was Melanie Saunders who coached the girls softball teams for so many years that set the goals for these girls and taught them how to play the game,” said Bane.

But now, with the changes in stipend pay, he wondered whether coaches would be so committed to the athletic program.

Bane added that coaches have had no say in the matter of stipends and asked that school principals or athletic directors be allowed to set salaries rather than having school board members do that.

A second speaker, Don Williams, said he has been a proud sponsor of local athletics since 1974. “These coaches ask the kids to give 110 percent. Many of them cannot even talk to their parents and they need these coaches really need us.”

Williams said if the coaches don’t get what they sense as fair pay, then “we’re going to lose them.”

The next speaker, Detra Carr, once again talked about what he wants to see the board look for in the new superintendent.

Representing the local NAACP, Carr said they want to see someone with “new ideas and visions who has Halifax County at heart. Someone who can work with custodians, food service personnel, teachers and administrators and treat them with respect.”

Trustees also recognized HCMS student Faith Roberts, who has been selected to participate in the Honor Performances Series later this summer in New York. Her music instructor, Ben Woosley, said Roberts will spend a week in New York and have the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall — “something that every musician dreams of doing,” he said.

The board also recognized three local residents for their awards from the Southern Virginia Regional Technology Consortium. Kathy Reagan received the Technology Support Award, Sinai first grade teacher Erica Grubbs received the Technology Award and Cristie Lewis received the Instructional Support Award.

Trustees also recognized Herndon for her selection as this year’s Superintendent of Year for Region VIII.

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Comments

I don't know the route Superintendent Herndon takes when she drives in, but she has to be aware of the empty houses and stores. And the factories that have closed or left the county. And the students that graduated and left the county to get a good job. All that equals less people to pay taxes. And yet, she would like to spend $70 million dollars for a new building. Halifax County is not Lynchburg and residents here struggle to put food on the table. Hopefully the new superintendent will live in Halifax County and see the struggle. Renovate the building and then do repairs as needed. It is nice to dream. I dream that GM and Ford will open factories in the county, but that is not going to happen, so the county needs to make do with what it has.

Comments

If the students wouldn't destroy everything in the schools it would not be in such bad shape. It's a shame that they could care less about the condition of the school they are in.

Comments

It's called maintenance!!!! I don't know who is in charge of the maintenance department here but they are the most incompetent, inept bunch of folks I've ever seen. It should be called the NO MAINTENANCE DEPARTMENT. Either theses folks have no skills or no guidance. Went in the High School and the seats in the auditorium was filthy, and the armrests were gone on about 1/4 of the seats. Can't keep anything fit if you do not maintain it. And by the way, there are no businesses or jobs here to pay for a new school. Before when the school was built there was a Burlington plant in Halifax, JPS, tobacco and many more that are not here now. BOS better think long and hard before you take on another project the taxpayers can't afford.

Comments

By maintenance- Federal grant built that school not local $$$!!!! FACT!!! By the way-thanks to Udy C. Wood!!! The naysayers said he couldn't get that money !!!

Comments

Hey Mr. JoeBlow - FACT. Thank you for remembering Udy Wood. Mr. Yeatts deserves credit also. Mr. Wood died a broken troubled man. But, look at his body of work. Intergration was no problem in Halifax. Other counties like Prince Edward, huge problems. Back in the seventies the schools were top notch. Great administration, great teachers, great coaches. Coleman Starnes, Wayne Lloyd, Don Thompson were legends. Those guys would have found the money for athletics. And after game meals would be at a sit down restaurant. All the administrators, teachers, and coaches were all on the same team.


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