The Amherst County School Board during its Jan. 9 meeting approved conveying a section of Trojan Road near Monelison Middle School as part of a major road reconstruction project planned for Woodys Lake Road in Madison Heights.
The board will transfer the 9,456 square feet area to the Amherst County Board of Supervisors for purchase by the Virginia Department of Transportation, according to Amherst County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent William Wells. The sale amount is about $3,300 and is recommended to go into the school division’s capital improvement plan, Wells said.
“It’s a small amount of money but in the end any amount of money is beneficial,” Wells said.
VDOT previously has announced plans to reconstruct Woodys Lake, which it described as as narrow, curvy and uneven in causing difficulties for motorists and pedestrians, a $7.8 million project targeted for construction in 2021 and possibly into the following year.
Wells said the division will work with VDOT on travel routes and plans for getting bus traffic in and out of Monelison while the road is being reconstructed. VDOT estimates six to eight months for the road project, Wells told board members.
“We can expect four to five months of issues with our traffic,” Wells said.
Bus traffic from Trojan Road to Woody’s Lake is expected to be redirected toward U.S. Business 29 temporarily, Wells has told the board. That would include working with law enforcement to briefly halt traffic on the highway so buses can get in and out of Monelison at the beginning and end of the school day, he said.
“I’m sure we can have a safe manner there,” Chairwoman Priscilla Liggon said of redirecting traffic.
Also during the meeting, Wells presented a report on the need to replace two driver’s education vehicles and a handful of other vehicles, vans and SUV’s, for the purpose of transporting students and other administrative purposes. Driver’s education vehicles especially are old, ranging from 1998 to 2002, and the division wants to ensure they are safe, Wells said.
“There’s a difference going 5 miles per hour in a parking lot than going 70 miles per hour down the U.S. 29 bypass when they’re learning to drive,” Wells said.
The board agreed to further discuss the potential to use $122,719 in expected additional CIP funding for the vehicle replacements after Superintendent Rob Arnold presents the division’s 2020-21 budget proposal on Feb. 27.
During his report to the board during the meeting, Arnold said last month Gov. Ralph Northam presented his 2020-22 biennium budget plan. “For education, it is the best budget that has been presented in quite a while,” Arnold told the board.
He said in the next fiscal year the local composite index, a complex, detailed state formula that decides funding for school division’s based on a locality’s ability to pay, is set to slightly increase, which means the division will probably get $200,000 less than it normally would.
Arnold said the Virginia General Assembly session is expected to last longer this year and in late February he will present a budget plan for the division using the most conservative of three state budgets from the governor, the House of Delegates and the Senate.
While Northam is proposing a 3% raise for school employees, Arnold pointed out it would come in the second year of the biennium and not the upcoming fiscal year. While he didn’t go into specifics, he said his priority is not to wait until the second year as far as raises for employees.
“I certainly want to do that whether they give us that money or not,” Arnold said of raises.
School employees received a 5% raise in the current budget. Arnold said the governor’s proposed budget is based on conservative revenue projections and expressed optimism more money for education could be available.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.