A committee overseeing a plan to merge Alleghany County and Covington schools met Thursday to make final preparations for a presentation before the Virginia Board of Education Nov. 19.
Jacob Wright and Jonathan Arritt, who are serving as co-chairmen of the School Joint Services Committee, will make the presentation before the Board of Education.
“While the board will need to review the proposal twice before it can be approved, we’re confident that the hard work from everyone involved will ensure a smooth approval process,” said Wright.
“Most of us would admit that working with state level government agencies isn’t always the easiest process, but we’re happy to report the folks at the Board of Education have been very helpful and seem to have genuinely taken an interest in helping make sure everything is in place to give a new school division in the Alleghany Highlands a wonderful start,” Arritt said.
The plan, which calls for the school divisions to merge administratively in 2022, must be approved by the Board of Education. Funding support from the Virginia General Assembly will also be needed to equalize teacher salaries and benefits, as well as offer an early-retirement incentive.
Students would begin attending the joint school division in 2024.
The merger plan was approved by governmental bodies in both localities in September.
“Our local folks have continued to meet on regular schedules. An executive subcommittee was formed after the passing of the four resolutions to work together and work through any issues as mentioned in the resolutions,” Arritt said.
The executive committee is made up of the four executives from the city and county, board chairs and the mayor.
“The committee meets weekly to oversee the process and help decide some of the topics that need to be discussed by the various subcommittees as well as the Joint Services Committee as a whole,” Wright said.
A finance subcommittee is concerned primarily with gathering data on transitional costs.
“The information will be used to prioritize expenses and get them taken care of in the most efficient way possible,” Arritt said.
An athletic subcommittee has held discussions about what a consolidated athletic program will look like.
“Topics ranging from which current Virginia High School League district the new system would compete in to how best to integrate alumni and community organizations have been covered,” Wright said.
A curriculum subcommittee has been tasked with compiling a comprehensive list of courses and programs currently offered — both in person and virtually.
“This list will be used to help plan the blending of the two systems academically as well as give a proper foundation for projecting what additional educational opportunities might exist once student bodies are joined. While this task is fairly straightforward, it is certainly the most important aspect of any school planning,” Arritt said.
“Providing the best education possible for every child in the Alleghany Highlands has been and continues to be our most important goal,” he added.
The committee began its work in 2019 using $400,000 in funds from the Virginia General Assembly.
This photo is of Covington City School Board members Bert Baker, left, and Tonya Jones from a joint meeting back in September with Covington City Council at Covington High School’s Curfman Hall. During the meeting, both the school board and council by 3-2 votes approved a proposal to merge Covington City and Alleghany County schools. (Gavin Dressler Photo)