The Fluvanna County school board had to find a way to recoup $308,173 of unanticipated expenditures on operating the new high school building. While no solution was settled on at Thursday’s (Nov. 1) budget work session, the options were whittled down to six from the original list of 17.

The administration will gather more data and numbers on the six options and present them to the school board on Wednesday, Nov. 7 for a final vote. The six options are: either a 3 or 4-day furlough for all staff, restructuring of alternative education, eliminating two division-level administrator positions, eliminating two division-level instructional positions, eliminate six school level positions, and eliminate three part-time positions.

Approximately forty teachers, organized by the Fluvanna Education Association (FEA), showed up with protest signs asking that the board not choose to furlough staff or cut positions.

“Everything is terrible, there are no good choices. If you see the signs, they say different things because we don’t all have one message,” said Perrie Johnson, president of the FEA and a 23-year Fluvanna County teacher. “Our suggestion is to look at every position that doesn’t teach children – eliminate non-essential positions and non-essential programs throughout.”

When the school board returned from closed session, School Board Chair Camilla Washington had strong words for the teachers union.

“Please put away your signs,” said Washington. “It’s very disruptive. It’s not us versus you. Please respect the board’s time and we will respect you and your profession.”

The school board sought the opinions of Fluvanna County staff about what should be cut from the budget through a survey sent out on Oct. 24. The response rate was high – 407 of the Fluvanna school district’s 521 employee gave their opinions. Sixty-nine percent of teachers and staff preferred to eliminate two division-level administrations and 55 percent preferred to go to a 4-day school week. The least popular cost saving options were furlough days, eliminating public transportation and eliminating pre-kindergarten education – each receiving consideration from only 26 percent of staff.

But it looks as if some their opinions went unheard, because furlough is still a top contender.

“At the beginning of this school year we were trying desperately to please everyone,” said school board member Brenda Pace. “But now the focus has got to be on our children and how to least impact them.”

The school board quickly ruled out a 4-day school week because of concerns for young children without childcare on the fifth day. The elimination of pupil transportation was also deemed unreasonable – citing that attendance rates would go down and with it state and federal reimbursement rates. Closing Columbia and Cunningham were also ruled out because of crowding concerns. Closing Abrams is not an option because it is the technology and network hub for the entire county.

“The tower that is there is the most important piece. We can’t pick up the tower and move it easily,” said Josh Gifford, the network administrator for Fluvanna County Schools. “We’re talking two to three weeks down time just to move old equipment to the old high school band room.”

Likewise, closing Palmyra school building is a complication because administrators and school board officials need to be in a building accessible to everyone, even sex offenders who are not allowed near schools with children in the buildings. Right now only half of the Palmyra building is in use, the basement’s alternative education program having been moved to the Abrams building.

Shutting down pre-kindergarten and spring athletics were also eliminated as cost-saving possibilities because of the benefits they provide students. The extended service program, which allows retired staff to keep their health insurance in exchange for 30 days of service to the county in substitute teaching, was also kept.

The board is now actively seeking feedback from the community.

“We want to hear from the public,” said Washington. “We encourage e-mail, encourage phone calls, and coming to speak at public comment.”

School Board Contact Information

Ms. Camilla Washington, Chair
Columbia District

Mr. William Hughes, Vice-Chair
Cunningham District

Ms. Bertha Armstrong
Fork Union District

Ms. Carol Tracy Carr
Rivanna District

Ms. Brenda Pace
Palmyra District

Ms. Brandi Critzer

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