School renovation approved

Published 1:55 pm Thursday, December 2, 2021

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A unanimous vote by the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors approved the renovations of Prince Edward County Elementary School.

During the public participation portion of the Nov. 9 meeting, numerous citizens voiced their concerns and wants for something to be done about the elementary school. The school was built in seven phases starting in 1969. Due to wear and tear and weather, many parts of the school need attention.

“Especially during this time of COVID, the school is not the healthiest place to be for our students and staff due to the mold and damages caused by leaks in the roof,” said Dr. Barbara Johnson, superintendent of Prince Edward County Public Schools.

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The Prince Edward County School Board asked the Board of Supervisors to move forward with Option #3 for fixing the school. The first option was only to fix the roof, ignoring the damages due to decades of leaking. The second option fixed the roof and the damages. The fourth option was to tear down and rebuild the school entirely. With neither extreme seeming to fit the need, Option #3 will start with a new roof as well as repairs and renovations to “bring the school up to the 21st century.”

“In a perfect world, Option #4 would be great,” said Doug Stanley, county administrator. “But we want to make sure that we have enough money left over to invest into the other schools for other improvements.”

Johnson has already applied for grants to help cover parts of the renovation costs. According to the Prince Edward County 2022-2024 Capital Improvement Plan, this project is looking at a $34 million contribution cost. Funding will be provided from the county’s general fund. However, the county is looking for additional funding by possibly having a 1% additional local sales tax.

As repairs take place for the roof yearly, Johnson has been having conversations with the School Board and the Board of Supervisors about this renovation for years. Now, the Board of Supervisors has voted to start the nine-step, multi-year process to bring the school to where it should be.

The steps include:

• Advertising for the project for architectural services in the winter of 2022.

• Moving forward with design of repairs for the existing roof system in the spring and summer of 2022.

• Funding temporary repairs and starting project design in winter of 2022.

• Awarding design contract in spring and summer of 2022, determining financing and funds in summer and fall of 2022.

• Bidding the renovation project in winter 2022 and 2023.

• Selling bonds for project in spring of 2023.

• Awarding the bid for the renovation project in spring 2023.

• Completing the project in fall 2024.

These renovations will fix existing problems and create open and flexible learning spaces for students.

“We appreciate all the public support and investment in our schools and our children,” said Johnson. “And I appreciate the collaboration between the two boards that we have had up until this point.”

The Board of Supervisors also:

Approved a request from Sandy River Outdoor Adventures for a special use permit to operate a commercial outdoor sports and recreation facility with lodging and restaurant/brewpub on 36.40 acres. The location is on Fairlea Road, Rice.

Learned that eligible employees now have the option of a flex spending account through McGriff Employee Benefits Solutions. Employees can make pretax contributions to a debit card that can be used for medical expenses or child care. This provides a benefit to employees and the county as it will save on FICA and Medicare taxes.

Approved two budget amendments for the Sheriff’s Department to take its $500 donation from the Farmville Lions Club to put in the Animal Care line and for the amount of $13,950 from VACORP to replace a totaled 2017 Ford Explorer.

Established priorities for the use of $4.4 million from the American Rescue Plan Act. This money will be given in two increments one year apart and can be used for supporting public health expenditures; addressing negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency; replacing lost public sector revenue; providing premium pay for essential workers; investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. It was not voted on but will be thought of moving forward in future projects.

Heard from Johnson that the school system wants to reinstate the JROTC program. There is no preference on branches as long as leadership, discipline and pride are taught to the students. Folks are encouraged to contact the central office to provide any suggestions or connections to help this program move forward. Johnson also discussed the school’s initiatives to get students back in school as the high school is facing an 81% attendance rate.

Voted to purchase the Laserfiche software to organize important paperwork and documents efficiently. This will bring organization to the office and save labor time searching for desired documents.