School Board to reverse its budget

Pam Dudding Contributing writer

If there are any people who deserve more, it is the teachers, staff, and school workers of every county.

Sadly, Superintendent Jeanette Warwick had to make the announcement at the May School Board meeting, that due to the Coronavirus, funds to the schools were cut drastically, therefore having to reverse the decision for employee pay raises.

Warwick shared, “When I sent an email out to all of my staff, I started it with, “What a difference a day can make!”

She explained that she entered their budget cycle with the previous approved budget feeling confident that they would be able to provide the requests of her staff. “It was a budget we felt confident with, including a step increase for our employees. However, there is a lot that remains unseen now due to the Covid crisis.”

She noted that the uncertainty of the amount of lottery funds they will receive and the fact the state sales tax revenue is much lower, she had to reverse some decisions as she explained, “It is because that has all decreased significantly due to Covid for this school year and they are also predicting the same decreases for the budget for next year.”

Warwick noted that she anticipates a reduction of approximately $90,000 in next year’s budget.

Adding, “We also have a loss in our average daily membership which is the number of kids we have enrolled. This also affects our state funding which is an approximate loss $124,349.”

She reminded the Board that 85 percent of the budget is salaries and benefits.

“Regrettably with this information, Ms. Duncan and I have gone through the budget and at this time we are recommending the removal of the step increase for the 2021 budget,” Warwick announced. “We would like to move ahead and issue contracts to staff, however right now we cannot issue contracts with an increase in salary.”

She also shared that the State department has frozen salaries.

“But it is not totally off the table but is currently frozen. However, if our final budget from the state is better than we anticipate, we may be able to go back and reinstate a salary increase,” Warwick continued. “I feel like right now that we need to be financially conservative, and not over-extend the budget.”

The hopes are that at the June monthly meeting, they will have the final budget numbers, being able to work specifically with their needs.

Samuel Foster, attending via internet, reiterated the new class that will be available for next year’s students.

Samuel Foster shared, “I know that we had wanted to bring back something similar to home economics and the closest thing that we have to that currently for the high school is Culinary Arts. Therefore, next year we will have an Introductory Culinary Arts class, following the second year with a Culinary Arts class.”

Middle school will have exploratory classes, “what some remembered as home economics years ago”, Warwick added.

Warwick informed everyone that The Department of Education is working with the Virginia Department of Health for the upcoming school year of, whether to open completely, have alternate days, have virtual classrooms and how to social distance in school.

“Until we really know what happens and the governor’s Phase 3, the schools are at a standstill,” she said.

Principal Melissa Whiting explained that teachers have completed their instructional training in Google Classroom training for grades three through twelve, given by Melinda Huffman, IT/RT Development. Also, Kindergarten through second teachers are working on Google sites

“They are now in the process of creating their classrooms,” she added.

However, Warwick noted the continual challenge they have with lack of Internet Access which they discovered when they surveyed the students at home. “Samuel Foster is working on hot spots and other options which will hopefully assist,” she said.

Another rising issue is that of parents having multiple children and only one computer source, making it difficult for them to complete homework on a timely basis.

Warwick added that the state is working to provide online services.

Whiting also shared that discussions about the prom are still in the finalizing process.

Crenshaw applauded the efforts of Warwick, the teachers and everyone “who have put forth their efforts. I can’t thank you enough,” she said. “This has all of us looking at many options. I never would have thought that we would ever be in this situation.”

The next monthly Craig County School Board meeting will be held on the second Tuesday, June 9 at 5:30pm in the High School Auditorium. Currently, everyone is still encouraged to practice social distancing and the use of masks and is encouraged to attend and share their thoughts, suggestions and/or praises to the Board.

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