The first Nelson County School Board meeting of the 2019-2020 school year was full of updates and announcements.

Janet Turner-Giles, newly-appointed chair of the board, welcomed everyone on Aug. 8 to the public meeting. David Parr, newly-appointed vice-chair, Ceaser Perkins, South District representative, and George Cheape, interim East District representative were all present. The Central District seat is currently vacant as Dave Francis resigned and moved to Richmond with his wife in August.

At the board meeting, a number of topics were discussed including the middle school School Resource Officer, the new electronic sign for in front of the middle and high school complex, the process of balancing the current year’s budget, and the possibility of solar panels in the school division.

Shannon Irvin, assistant superintendent for administration, updated the board on different cuts and changes made to balance the budget for the upcoming year. The division was able to give employees a 3% raise, keep the School Nurse Program with Blue Ridge Medical Center going, and keep the double bus runs in the afternoon.

The division had to do away with three elementary teachers, one Instructional Coach at Tye River, the Library Assistant at the high school, a part-time English teacher at the high school, a part-time Drivers Ed Instructor at the high school, and the Library Assistant at the middle school. The division also had to reduce one Instrumental Music Teaching position, one General Education teaching position at the middle school, get rid part-time custodians at Tye River and Rockfish River Elementary School, the Data Specialist for the division, one Division Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT), and now has two fewer bus drivers for the Division. One previously full-time custodian position at the high school has been converted to part-time.

“Thankfully, all of these staffing changes were accommodated mostly with resignations and retirements. For the most part, the employees that wanted to continue to work in the schools were able to do so,” Irvin said.

Other programs eliminated include Behind the Wheel, payment of fees for practice SAT tests, and cut the fuel budget for the division. The health insurance options changed as well to try and mitigate the 18% cost increase this year. Irvin said instead of having two fairly good plans, they now have one good plan, one not so good plan, and a high deductible plan. The division also cut tuition reimbursement for faculty and staff classes and had to adjust two bus routes in Arrington and Afton due to the cuts to bus driver staff.

“It will be a tight year. We appreciate everything you’ve done to make this work,” Turner-Giles said.

Irvin brought to the board’s attention the possibility of converting to solar power, which was brought to the division by a community member earlier in the year. After discussing how to move forward with this option, it was made clear the division would have to issue a request for proposal and go out for bid if they wanted to pursue utilizing solar energy in the division.

“We’re hear to seek your guidance it terms of whether you wanted us to pursue going out for bid for solar energy, and what scope of project would the board desire,” Irvin said.

Obstacles the board was told to be aware of at the middle and high school is the problem with the roof. Irvin said the solar panels would most likely be installed on the roofs; however the middle and high school complex will probably have to have its roof replaced within the next three to four years.

The board came to the consensus to look at an RFP, provided it doesn’t cost anything and then bringing the information back before the school board.

Janell Stinnett, director of secondary education, announced the new electronic sign along U.S. 29 in front of the middle and high school is projected to be completely done by Nov. 8 at the latest, weather permitting. The building trades students at the high school will help construct the sign, saving money and giving the students hands-on experience.

“It’s an exciting time,” Stinnett said.

Eagle said they have been in touch with the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office and are hoping to get the fourth and final School Resource Officer in the middle school by Aug. 26.

Finally, the Central District seat on the school board is currently vacant, but according to the school board a public meeting will be held on Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the high school for individuals wishing to be appointed to the seat. After the public hearing, the school board will have to wait seven days before selecting an interim representative.

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Erin Conway covers Nelson County for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5524.

Erin Conway covers Nelson County. Reach her at (434) 385-5524 or econway@newsadvance.com.

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