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Boards Discuss Projects

PRINCE EDWARD – County school board and board of supervisors in last week's joint meeting discussed a long-standing issue of improving athletic facilities.

School officials presented a list of capital projects totaling just under $7 million, but the most costly is the athletic complex renovation.

What school officials factored on their list, however, were costs to separate the baseball field from the football field ($590,182) and funding to crown, sod, and irrigation and drainage work, for the football field ($626,000), which were incorporated in a previous engineering study estimated to cost $5.3 million for improvements. (The balance of the recommendations, that included a host of others, were listed behind the football field improvements at $4,083, 818.)

“We've broken those out into what's hopefully a little bit more manageable separate portions, hoping that it would be easier to get moving on some of that large project smaller pieces at a time,” Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith said.

In talking with an engineer, he cited, in the current construction climate the actual bids could come in significantly below that. If they were able to move forward with a portion of the project, the first piece would be to move the baseball field so that then as funds were available, they could begin work on the football field.

In effect, a phased in approach for improvements.

But the projects were presented in what the superintendent cited is a rough priority order with several listed ahead of the sports fields.

At the top was an engineering study of HVACs. Specifically, school officials looked to an engineering study for HVACs at all schools ($30,000) and repair/upgrade of the middle school HVAC ($250,000).

Dr. Smith highlighted the need to look at the potential for upgrades that might help with efficiency or, in some cases, the existing system's ability to adequately remove moisture from the air leading to some mold and mildew problems.

The list also included (rough projections) $500,000 to repair/replace the roof at the middle school and $300,000 to repair/replace the roof at the Career Technical Center listed ahead of addressing athletic facility needs.

“…The patchwork on the roof at the middle school is failing in many places and…as one contractor told me years ago, you know you're in trouble when your patches are leaking,” Dr. Smith said. “And there's only so many patches you can apply on top of each other before you have a failed roof.”

He offered that they feel it is a “reasonably urgent need to protect the integrity of the buildings to extend the life of them as school buildings.”

Beyond athletic field improvements, Dr. Smith assessed that the school board would want to have further discussions about how they want to prioritize the remainder of items.

That list includes:

*A breezeway for the middle school-an enclosed walkway from the fifth grade section ($70,000).

*A storage area for auto mechanics, electronics and buildings and trades ($50,000).

*Pressure washing tennis courts, level uneven areas-filling cracks and repainting, painting lines and replacing net posts and nets ($78,000).

*Upgrading panel boxes and light switches in four buildings at the elementary school and installing new exit lights ($20,000).

*Adding lights to the tennis courts ($150,000).

*Repave/seal all parking lots ($55,000).

*Laser grade and reseed and add sprinkler system to the soccer field ($105,000).

*And installing middle school interior cameras ($30,000).

Collectively, the project costs were projected at $6,938,000.

“…Of course we know they're not all gonna be done now, but…you need to have a total to work with,” Dr. Smith said.

Some Discussion

The priority of athletic facilities, however, sparked some discussion-where it ranks as far as needs. The school board would still need to decide priority and then forward the request.

The two boards were presented information on unexpended carryover funds from 2008-09 fiscal year, where $377,413 was unexpended (verified with auditors on an accrual basis). An additional $61,034 has been projected for 2009-10, but that figure has not been verified.

School officials previously asked about the 2008-09 budget year funds, which was tabled by supervisors.

There had been some thought that the funds would be used for athletic fields, but it was tabled.

School Board Chairman Russell Dove asked about getting the discussion off of the table.

While Bartlett said he couldn't speak for the board, he noted that usually it's not open-ended, rather that they would meet, make their decision on priority, and come forward with what their priority is and why and have a specific request for supervisors.

There was also some discussion of coordinating between fewer members of the two boards working together and reporting back to their respective boards.

Supervisors appeared to have some differences of opinion discussing academics and improving athletic facilities.

“…We've been working on the athletics program here for several years now and I would like to see something done on it. But I know…you have priorities…but you got Nottoway County, you got Cumberland County, you got Appomattox County. All the schools has got nice baseball fields and football fields… seating stands and everything. You walk over here to ours and walk out there on it and look at it and it looks like to me a junkyard to the other football fields and baseball fields and stadiums at the schools,” cited Vice-Chairman of Board of Supervisors Howard Simpson.

Lockett District Supervisor Robert “Bobby” Jones cited activities in other localities where fundraisers are held for sports programs.

“…I guess it's easier on the taxpayer to say…let some of my money go toward a sports complex when they see fundraising activities that…show the support of parents, too,” he said.

Simpson agreed.

Still, he assessed that the morale of the students would be different if they had a nice stadium to play in “and invite these other schools and things to come instead of somebody coming and got some kinda old iron seats to sit on about ready to fall over if a dozen people sit on 'em. …It's terrible.”

Leigh District Supervisor Don Gantt cited that athletics plays a “significant part in education,” but added “academics, in my mind has got to come first. They've got to.”

Gantt offered that if they could get something where the school, parents and kids “have some skin in the game as far as putting together some type of fundraiser, I think they'll take way more care of it, it'll be a bigger, easier pill for taxpayers to swallow, (and) you'll be better off in the long run.”

Asked if they have an athletic support group, it was noted that they do not at the present time. Smith, however, said that the new high school principal is hard at work developing a parent/teacher/student organization as a general school program support group.

There is some interest, the Superintendent also reported, in looking at the athletic facilities longer term.

While Farmville District (801) Supervisor Mattie Wiley said she believes the educational part of the school system is first priority. She added, however, that she attends games and she is most of the time “scared to death because that field there is not safe. It is not a safe place. When they have a big game and everybody is standing there beside that fence and just all over, it is not safe at all.”

Basically, she cited, the away team has no place to sit down. She, too, assessed that it would raise the morale of the students.

Gantt, noting he had been at the polls all day and probably talked to “150 parents, grandparents, whatever. Football fields never came up.”

He added, “What keeps coming up is a behavioral perception that behavior's out of control on the school buses, maybe in the classrooms, whatever. It's a perception,” Gantt said.

He also highlighted the grading point sale difference (Prince Edward has a six-point scale and some school divisions have a 10-point scale). He also noted he talked to parents complaining about the perception of the behavioral programs “and really wondered why you guys haven't implemented a uniform standard.”

While Gantt-addressing the grading scale-conceded he's not an educator, he said he understands competition. In comparison to other schools, he suggested it is holding kids back in comparison to other schools.

School Board vice-chairman Susan Lawman highlighted that colleges get the grading scale and asked if he thought someone should pass with a “D”, with a score of 60.

“I think it should be standardized,” Gantt said.

He would also cite the biggest change-in a good way-that he's seen is the number of children passing advanced classes.