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Year-round schools promoted as facilities fix for Halifax County

South Boston News
With a year-round schedule and consolidation of grades 7-12 at Halifax County Middle School, the run-down HCHS building could be mothballed, contends county supervisor J.T. Davis. / November 12, 2018
Is a shift to year-round schools the answer for a run-down, expensive-to-fix Halifax County High School building?

ED-1 supervisor J.T. Davis, chair of the finance committee of the Halifax County Board of Supervisors, is promoting the idea as a low-cost, best-outcome solution for addressing facilities needs in Halifax County.

“I have done a lot of research and I’ve been struggling with this thing of how do we enhance education but avoid spending $170 million [on high school and elementary school buildings],” Davis said.

In a nutshell, the idea is this: mothball Halifax County High School, consolidate grades 7-12 at the middle school building, and send sixth graders back to the county’s underutilized elementary school buildings. To accommodate a drastically larger student body at the middle school, students would attend school year-round, with periodic two- or three-week breaks instead of the extended summer break, and there would be a “multi-track” calendar, possibly arranged by grade level, so that large numbers of students would be attending school at different times.

Davis concedes that the idea represents a huge break from the present, but he noted that the year-round school calendar has been embraced elsewhere it’s been tried. He pointed to the experience of Wake County, N.C. schools, in the Raleigh area, where parents who once protested the shift to year-round schools are now resisting calls to go back to the traditional school calendar.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s being done all over the country,” he said.

The State of Virginia is lending weight to the idea: the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC) studied year-round schooling as an option for Virginia localities and determined that “achievement of historically underperforming students improved faster in extended-year programs than in schools following traditional calendars, according to the office of Gov. Ralph Northam. The Northam Administration recently issued $7.7 million in state grants to localities for study and development of year-round school calendars for underperforming schools.

Among the grant recipients was Halifax County, which received a $49,300 planning grant to develop a year-round calendar for Sinai Elementary School.

Proponents of year-round schools argue that an evened-out calendar promotes student learning by doing away with the long summer break, when educational content is forgotten, requiring teachers to spend weeks with the start of each school year reviewing material from students’ prior grades. Some advocates have also argued that year-round schooling can serve as a springboard for higher teacher pay, due in part to more efficient use of school facilities.

Davis said that with Halifax County looking at plans to spend tens of millions on brick and mortar building improvements, “I’d rather put that money into teacher salaries.”

The board's finance committee, which Davis heads, has made a formal request to the School Board to hire an independent consultant group to study the feasibility of switching to a year-round school calendar in Halifax. “It should be an option on the table,” he said.

Typically with a year-round calendar, schools let out several times a year for extended periods, often three weeks in addition to the standard Christmas break. Opponents often decry the loss of the long summer vacation and disruption of family schedules — a problem that could be exacerbated by having students at different grade levels attending school on a different calendar. With grades seven through 12 sharing the Halifax County Middle School building, it’s likely that some grades would attend class on staggered schedules, affecting families with more than one child in grades 7-12.

Davis allowed that the current middle school facility might have to be expanded to make the plan work, but the cost would be far lower than the $100 million estimated price tag for building a new high school, he said. “We would have to look at certain things being done … but it would be a far cry from $100 million.”

Another major component of the plan — returning the sixth grade back to the elementary level — would address the problem of underpopulated elementary buildings, diminishing the argument for school closings and consolidation of attendance zones in the county. Davis noted that Halifax County’s school population has declined by 52 percent since 1967, with further losses expected in the future.

“We’ve got overcapacity as far as room [in the elementary facilities] and we’ve got undercapacity as far as student population.”

However, Davis argued the best reason for switching to year-round schools is to improve student academic performance while saving on the high cost of facilities improvements. “If we can create educational opportunities but save $100 million dollars, that’s something we need to look at,” he said.

Pointing to the JLARC study that shows year-round schools are especially effective in raising test scores at low-income schools, he added, “When you talk about low-income schools, that’s us. When all your schools get free lunch, that spells low income.”

While Davis said he expects resistance to the idea because “it’s just human nature” to oppose change, he said the idea of doing away with the summer break in favor of a year-round school calendar is the right thing to do from a purely educational standpoint.

“Which are you going to put in front? Are we going to put convenience in front or the education of our kids?”

Superintendent of Schools Mark Lineburg, who has received the finance committee request for a study of year-round schooling, said supervisors “want us to consider all options and I think we’ll be willing to consider anything reasonable that is brought to us.” However, Lineburg said it was too early for him or the School Board to express an opinion on the idea. “Till I dig into it a little more, I reserve comment on it.”

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Finally an idea. This might not be the final outcome but I applaud you Mr. Davis for thinking about a solution rather than complaining and doing nothing.


This is how you know it's most likely a bad idea. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s being done all over the country,” he said."
Did you know the golden gate bridge is a highly popular spot to test human flight without wings. But I'm not planning on going to San Francisco because Johnny did it too! Besides JT didn't come up with this idea on his own. He's just taking his marching orders from the state. "The State of Virginia is lending weight to the idea: the Joint Legislative Audit Review Commission (JLARC) studied year-round schooling as an option for Virginia localities"


Well teachers, looks like you'll get that pay raise after all. You'll just have to work 12 months out of the year instead of 9 in order to get it.,7007702&dq=national-association-for-year-round-education+lobbying&hl=en


A dull bulb can never have a bright idea! There are issues at the HS with the current population size and the suggestion to add two more grade levels to the mix will not help the issues in any way. Might I suggest to these council members to spend a few days in the HS to see how adding more students to the mix is not a good idea. Would anyone want their 12 year old in the same mix as 19-19 year olds? I cannot figure out how the daily schedule could be adjusted to accommodate all of the students. The breaks could be staggered, but you would still have the majority of the days shared with all unless they went at different times. I do like the year round idea.


Excellent idea Sir. You have the land at the middle school. You may have to spend $35 to $40 million on construction but everything is under one roof and you don't destroy anymore communities by closing elementary schools. Not the best solution but with enrollment going down every year, it may be the only solution. I mean the State of Virginia shuttered the state prison in Mecklenburg. The long term question is what can you convert the white elephant into.


Totally against this idea..Do not want my 12 year in school with a 19 year old...not to mention..the education will mean nothing when WORKING parents can't get their children to and from school due to a ridiculous
staggering schedule!! It's always people deciding what works best for
Other people's children, who dont have a dog in the fight!


I will not comment on the overall idea but will let time tell!! But this message to teachers-If you think Mr. Davis and his cohorts are going to put significantly more money in salaries, you are sadly mistaken! Don’ swallow that malarkey because the BOS have proven over the decades that “next year” never comes!!!!


The practicality of this idea is non-exsistent. There might be room at some elementary schools to add another grade level, but at SBES, the most centrally located, they are already busting at the seams. At 650 students in grades k-5, on a 6 day rotation for resource, jobs or times for students will be cut somewhere. Staggering schedules will make things like print rich environments for students nearly impossible. There are many aspects that I don’t think have been thought about going to year round or staggering schedules.


Well yet again, Mr. Davis is flexing his power of persuasion instead of letting the elected SCHOOL BOARD do their job of making the hard decisions. In the Commonwealth of VA, School Board members are elected by their constituents to represent the parents and citizens of the County. Mr. Davis has no school age children nor has he in decades. Where was HE when the High school was built and why didn't he get involved back then? One word, POWER! He is part of the problem in this County and you only need to look at the fiasco known as the Courthouse renovation as proof. He denied the Town of Halifax and the Historical Society input and the project is now a disaster. HE needs to let the interested parties, i.e. parents, teachers, and the school board figure this out, they did a great job with the middle school, the high school should be no different.


It's an excellent idea? "The following systems have abandoned year round school: Jefferson County, Colo, after 13 years due o no increase and in some cases decline in, test scores. Romeoville, Ill., after eight years because of high operational costs, scheduling problems and difficulty in filling year-administrative positions. Prince William County, Va., after nine years because the program was extremely expensive, failed to relieve overcrowding and student achievement did not increase. School officials planned to save $6.9 million by eliminating funding necessary for the program."


"In Dade County, Fla., they started year-round to deal with overcrowding in 1969. By 1973 the program had ended because “Year-round schools are not a solution to a fiscal short-fall. They are a way of postponing the inevitable expense of educating more students. History of year0round school is one of expensive and dismal failure.” (Paul Kretzschmar, News and Observer, 7/19/92). One wonders what was being said about what year-round school would offer students when the above programs were first implemented.",7007702&dq=national-association-for-year-round-education+lobbying&hl=en


This is an old idea. "The National Association For Year-Round Education (NAYRE) advocacy organization was founded in 1972. It is a government sector lobbying association." Why do you think this old idea hasn't been widely implemented? There are 26,407 public secondary schools and 10,693 private secondary schools. Close to 3,000 have year-round schedules.


The bad part about this dumb idea is the National Association For Year-Round Education is a government sector lobbying association. They use our tax dollars to pay for it. This group wouldn't exist if taxpayers didn't fund it. Why? Because its a dumb idea and most people wouldn't donate if they actually had a choice.


So everyone needs to read one statement in this article = school enrollment has declined 52% since the late 1960s and it is projected to further decline. So, to save the closing of the elementary schools you have to make hard decisions and bring two grades back. And the county does not have money to build another high school. But is just may have money to add on to the middle school and almost have the student body divided. Although when I was 6 I went to school with 12 year olds with no problem. Halifax County had to do the courthouse because the state of Virginia made every county upgrade every courthouse. So the county has debt on the courthouse, middle school, and I think the Bethune complex. And the average family cannot afford a $400 increase in local taxes. No industries and most are living below the poverty line.


THIS IS A BAD IDEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, students shouldn't have to go to school for a year long. And it's no point to conjoin grades and schools


Looks like an idea none the less. You either come up with more funding (tax hikes) or find new ways to skin the cat. I think its best that we look at all the alternatives before we start bashing ideas. Does anyone else on this message board have a better idea to accommodate this need?


I am strongly against this idea. We already miss days of school due to weather, and the solution to make up the days is to make half days longer and to go to school on work days. Who knows what weather will be like when making the year-round schedule. We could possibly get lots of rain that will cause flooding. We could have storms and strong winds that cause power outages. Then what? We would have to make up for the days we miss, meaning the "periodically breaks" we would get could get taken from us due to things we can not control. Then we definitely would be going to school all year.


dont do that mess


Well this is a horrible idea for one main fact, the summer heat will cause cooling costs unheard of and the year round busing costs will also be high. I doubt other localities across the country have a land area mass like we do in Halifax County. This may work in small localities but it will cost a greater amount in a county as large as ours. How about just fixing what is absolutely necessary at the High School, which would cost around $35-40 million and move a grade down to the Middle School, while at the same time moving 6th grade back to the elementary schools. Also build a new state of the art stadium to serve both schools. By having 3 grades each at the HS and MS, it would improve flow and the current size of both schools would serve the county well for decades to come, simple yet effective.


great idea time for change. So the questions for The Superintendent are will $40 million fix the absolute necessary repairs at the high school. And what other MAJOR projects are needed at the high school, middle school, and elementary schools. And according to your maintenance director the division spent about $120,000. per year at the high school on repairs. Come on, this is your own account the building needs everything. If you can only afford that small amount, then where are you going to get the money to repair a hundred million dollar building????????

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