Over the course of the last year, a committee, made up of two board members each from the Alleghany and Covington school boards, the Covington City Council, and the Alleghany County Board of Supervisors, has met over 20 times to work on a plan for a proposed consolidated school system. The committee has conducted a fiscal analysis, a facilities study, and is currently working towards the completion of a transportation study.
The committee broke into five subcommittees to take an in-depth look at matters of finance, curriculum, governance, facilities and transportation. The five subcommittees were comprised of executives from the four different entities as well as the heads of the community college and the jointly run technical center. The following are some of their findings:
The finance subcommittee met to focus on the cost savings and efficiencies a consolidated school system could bring about. They determined that a joint system could use a formula based on per pupil cost as the basis for budgeting and capital improvements. They suggested that an early retirement incentive package is the best means to gain efficiencies in matters of equalizing human resources within a consolidated division. The subcommittee also determined that each locality would retain its current debt moving forward.
The governance subcommittee decided on a 4-3 board make-up, with four members being appointed from Alleghany County and three members being appointed from Covington City. The newly appointed school board would require a minimum two-thirds vote in the case of major decisions including building closures and the hiring of a superintendent. Due to Virginia law, the localities would initially be required to appoint board members, but it is the committee’s recommendation that, following a consolidation, a local referendum be made to move to an elected school board.
The facilities subcommittee was tasked with proposing a plan for facilities usage. While the facilities subcommittee decisions were not unanimous, a majority of the members felt that a one high school and one middle school model would be able to offer students the best opportunity to experience an increased number of courses to choose from, and opportunities for greater schedule flexibility than alternative models that were considered. The subcommittee also recommends keeping all existing k-5 facilities in operation in a consolidated system.
The transportation subcommittee based its discussion on the proposed facilities usage plan, and has reached out to Alleghany County’s transportation software provider to commission a study of combining city and county bus routes based on facilities usage. The subcommittee has also suggested that the new system look at whether purchasing or leasing buses is more efficient for its needs.
The curriculum subcommittee has explored several different concepts for what curriculum should look like in a consolidated division. Members of this subcommittee firmly believe that career paths should be developed at a young age, and through the development of a new master schedule and partnerships with the college, the group feels that course offerings can be expanded to promote career and technical education opportunities, while also providing more educational opportunities in the arts and humanities. The group sees the value in project based learning, but is not interested in full-school implementation of the New Tech Network in a merged system.
The committee has conferred with their state senator and delegate throughout this process, and members of the committee have traveled to Richmond to meet with the State Superintendent, the Secretary of Education, and other state officials on multiple occasions. The committee will be presenting its plan to the four local entities for their approval and will look to Delegate Austin and Senator Deeds for assistance with the initial funding from the General Assembly to help equalize salaries and benefits as well as establish an early retirement incentive program, as suggested by both the finance subcommittee and the fiscal analysis study. The committee feels they have created an equitable plan that will increase opportunities for area youth while making more efficient use of funding on both a local and state level.