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SoVaNow.com / February 14, 2014
With Halifax County students looking forward to more days out of school this week due to the wintry weather, the School Board is looking ahead, too — to how the county division can make up for lost time later in the year.

On Monday, School Board trustees took their first step to reshuffle the calendar, setting Monday, March 17 as a snow makeup day. It will take the place of a teacher work day that had been slated for that date. The board action, following the recommendation of staff, was unanimous.

The county division has ten make-up days built into this year’s calendar. By Monday, students already had missed eight days due to inclement weather. With classes letting out at mid-day Wednesday in the expectation of significant snowfall later in the afternoon and continuing through today, school officials expressed concern about the growing loss of school days.

Elementary Education Supervisor Linda Owen, who made the calendar change recommendation, noted that if students miss more than 11 days from school, the School Board would need to look at the week of April 14-18, now scheduled as spring break, as a possibility for making up for lost time.

In other business at the School Board’s Monday meeting:

Trustees heard a report from Larry Roller about plans to improve the high school HVAC system. Roller introduced Robert Bouknight, who was chosen by the School Board in December to develop the planned upgrades.

Bouknight advised that the basic infrastructure of the system is in good condition and should continue to work well for the foreseeable future. He recommended that five steps be taken, however, as soon as possible to improve air quality in several areas of the school.

First, he noted, space in the basement area that was recently converted to classrooms is not air conditioned and tends to get very hot. These rooms need to be air conditioned just as other classrooms are, he said.

Second, the boys and girls locker rooms have no air conditioning and no humidifers. “It gets really humid in these areas particularly in March and April,” he pointed out.

Third, the boiler system has no reset valves which are needed to expand the life of the system.

Fourth, the air handling system needs controls to bring in the right amount of air since some areas of the school are overventilated, such as in the C Section. Meanwhile, the A wing does not have enough ventilation, Bouknight said.

Finally, the damper systems are 35 years old and need to be replaced. Bouknight added that with these things done, he thought the savings from greater heating and cooling efficiency would pay for the cost of the work over a span of a few years. He estimated the improvements would cost around $180,000 to $190,000.

ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts moved for approval of Bouknight’s report, noting that the School Board promised to improve air quality and ventiliation at Halifax County High School after a mold outbreak came to light at the beginning of the school year. His motion passed on a unanimous 8-0 vote.

School Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon reported on actions to upgrade fuel pumps at the school bus shop. She said that while the pumps are old, she had been advised that they are better than anything which can currently be bought (new pumps cost over $15,000).

Herndon said she has looked at putting a card lock system in place that would show every vehicle that is fueled and the name of the person doing it. But to install the new system, the school would have to own the pumps. Pumps currently are owned by Foster Fuels which sells diesel to the schools.

After contacting Foster, Herndon said the company agreed to sell the pumps to the school for $1 each.

The superintendent estimated the cost of the upgrades and the $2 pump purchases from Foster will add up to approximately $11,615. The upgrades do not include 500 gallon diesel tanks which are located at some of the outlying schools such as Sydnor Jennings Elementary.

Potts expressed some concerns about whether Halifax County was adhering to the state Procurement Act and requested the date on which the latest request for bids had been made. Herndon said she would review the records and advise him of that date.

Herndon also gained approval of the board to investigate the possibility of having professionally managed food services at the local schools. She noted that in order to complete the process by June 30, she needs to develop a request for proposals (RFP) that has to be reviewed by the Department of Education prior to publication.

School Board Chairman Kim Farson pointed out that student lunches had been among the most-voiced complaints cited in the division’s recent efficiency study.

She described professionally managed food services as “one of the most exciting programs’ addressed at a recent Williamsburg school board conference.

But Potts said he was concerned when he learned that some of the other schools’ RFPs [request for proposals] had been 40 to 80 pages long. “It seems to me that it would take a lot of time and energy when we are already in budget negotiations,” said Potts.

ED-1 Trustee Phyllis Smith moved to allow Herndon to investigate professionally managed food services and develop an RFP for prospective vendors. The motion passed on an 8-0 vote with the understanding that it would be brought back for further discussion at a special board meeting set for Feb. 24.

Maintenance Director Larry Roller asked for permission to conduct a surplus sale some time near the end of March or early April. He explained that is has been five years since the school system conducted such a sale, and during that time a lot of stuff has accumulated. There are perhaps five or six cars, drafting tables, saws, other vocational tools, as well as kitchen equipment, laptop desks and early childhood furniture that can be sold, he said.

Roller added that while it has been convenient to store the surplus items and use some as spare parts, there is no longer sufficient storage space once renovations begin at the back of the STEM Center in Halifax. The STEM Center will be used to house offices that are being displaced by the upcoming courthouse renovation project. Work is slated to start at the STEM Center as soon as possible.

Trustees also approved a request from YMCA Director Marcus Hargrave to allow the school system to institute payroll deductions for school employees who wish to join the local Y.

Hargrave said the Y will offer school employees a 10 percent discount if monthly payroll deductions can be made.

Following a closed session, trustees by a 5-3 vote (with trustees Kim Farson, Dick Stoneman and Fay Satterfield voting no) approved the personnel report. That report indicates that Dwight Elam has been appointed as transportation coordinator at an annual salary of $52,000. The vacancy was created by the resignation of Earl Womack.

The board also accepted the resignations of Larry Roller, firector of Maintenance and Operations, effective Feb. 28, and of Halifax County Middle School social studies teacher Mark Grubbs, effective Feb. 7. The board named Douglas W. Newcomb to succeed Roller as director of Maintenance and Operations, setting an annual salary of $59,812. Roller is departing to take a job with the Charlotte County school division.

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Why is halifax ps closed today?

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Read the headline and thought this article was about Bob McDonnell.


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