The Clarke County School Board had a chance to catch its breath on Monday night after weeks of focusing on budget matters. But as the School Board turns its attention toward overhauling its administrative policies and a pending facility move, adapting to the new Clarke County High School building is already beginning to be a major focus for the new Board.
At last night’s meeting School superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy said that he is very pleased to finally have the chance to standardize the school division’s administrative policy manual and by bringing it more into line with Virginia School Board Association standards.
Murphy said that adopting VSBA standard policies has many benefits including free legal representation if a VSBA-approved policy is challenged in court.
“This is a real success story for us” Murphy said. “The VSBA policies are based on the National School Board taxonomy terms. This means that we will be more efficient by spending less staff time micro-managing term selection when we are working on our policy manual.”
School Board chairman Janet Alger concurred.
“Using the VSBA template will make it much easier to find a specific policy because cross-referencing is much better.”
School Board member Dr. Beth Leffel (Buckmarsh) is leading the policy-by-policy review of the current administrative manual. Last night Leffel presented several preliminary policies for review by the School Board members. The review process is set to continue until the entire manual is complete.
Teachers to Move Classrooms
In anticipation of this summer’s move to the new Clarke County High School, moving coordinator and engineering instructor Ed Novak described plans underway to make the move both efficient and cost effective.
“Right now we’re collecting plastic wrap and boxes from the citrus fruit sale that will be provided to each instructor to pack classroom items prior to the move” Novak told the School Board. “Once the boxes are packed and labeled with classroom items the teacher will place them in the hallway on a shipping pallet for transport to the new high school.”
Novak said that Berryville Graphics has offered to provide a trailer to transport the palletized classroom items to the new school facility at no charge.
Teachers will receive eight-hours of stipend pay to pack, move and then unpack their classroom items Novak said. Instructors with both a classroom and a lab will receive sixteen hours of stipend pay.
Novak said that the projected cost of using teacher-labor, $13K, is well below the budgeted amount for the move. Novak added that only licensed teachers will participate in the actual move due to liability concerns.
Novak said that the planned completion date for the move is Aug 1st.
Community Requests for Use of New School
Superintendent Murphy said that CCPS is already receiving requests from community groups hoping to use the new school building even though the County will not officially take possession until later this month.
“We’ve had lots of requests from churches and community groups who want to begin using the building as soon as possible” Murphy said. “But right now we have no experience with the facility and no baseline data on how much it will cost to run it.”
Murphy said that, for example, only five custodians have been allocated for building maintenance and it remains to be seen whether additional resources will be needed to keep the facility clean. Murphy suggested that the School Board may elect to look at a facility-use fee for the building once the baseline operating costs are established.
Murphy told the School Board that through June 15th, access to the new facility will be limited to building tours and construction teams making final touches. From June 16th through July 29th building access will be restricted to staff only and then later extended for limited public use from August 1st through December 31st.
“The new high school has over 100,000 square feet more space than we presently have at the existing high school” Murphy said. “We need some time to get to know this building.”
No Easy Solution to Split Campus
As much as staff and students may be looking forward to the new school facility, administrators are concerned about physical education challenges presented by the new building.
Dr. Murphy said that it would be some time before the new playing fields were ready for use and in the meantime there were no clear solutions for physical education classes.
“We are severely limited with regards to next year’s physical education offering” Murphy told the School Board. “With no track, no tennis courts and no playing fields we either have to modify the curriculum or allow students to have access across Business Route 7.”
Murphy said that several school administrators were looking at the phys-ed challenge but there is “no solution at this point.”