School Board weighs in on budget, re-opening plans

By Ruthann Carr

The Fluvanna School Board met Wednesday (Oct. 28) to hear the superintendent’s re-opening plans and to weigh in on Fiscal Year 2021 budget priorities.

Neither Andrew Pullen (Columbia) nor Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) attended the meeting.

Less than half of students enrolled will return to school in-person (two days per week).

Superintendent Chuck Winkler said out of 3,215 students, 1,406 indicated they will attend hybrid classes starting Nov. 5.

The rest will remain virtual learners. But of those, 530 noted they would return to in-person classes Feb. 1, which is the beginning of the second semester.

Winkler said students and staff will be required to wear masks and maintain at least a six-foot distance on the bus and in school. Those who don’t comply will be reported and may face discipline, he said.

James Kelley (Palmyra) asked what happens if someone has symptoms of or tests positive for Covid-19.

Winkler said they have developed letters to alert parents depending on the situation.

“We have to follow our local health department guidelines,” he said. “I’m trying to keep the public informed but not alarmed.”

Kelley said parents need to know if their child has been in contact with someone who tested positive.

Winkler assured him they will tell parents of children in that classroom.

Kelley asked if students who need quarantined will receive instruction.

“It depends, “Winkler said. “Certainly, if a whole class is quarantined they’ll all be virtual during their quarantine. “

Winkler said a big concern is making sure students have access to fresh water because they can’t use water fountains.

He also wants to make sure they have enough substitute teachers.

Children will eat in the cafeterias rather than in classrooms.

There’s no charge for meals for any student.


The FY21 budget ended with a $1.4 million carryover. The county agreed to allow the schools to keep $400,000 of that for new buses and upgrades to the Abrams building.

In discussing the FY22 budget, Winkler suggested funding at $44 million.

Winkler offered possible budget priorities for FY22:

  • Reading specialists, one each at Carysbrook and the middle school;
  • Additional math special for kindergarten through fifth grade;
  • Additional social worker;
  • Health insurance premium increase;
  • Staff compensation – step or one percent = $400,000; additional percent = $375,000.

Kelley and Shirley Stewart (Rivanna) expressed an interest in having enough additional staff to help returning students who may have stalled in their education due to the pandemic.

The Board will meet Jan. 20 to work on details of the FY22 budget.

In new business, Kelley suggested the Board adopt a policy or at least make a statement requiring mask wearing in Board meeting.

“We’re bringing students into our buildings and we spent about an hour discussing enforcement of masks for students and teacher populations,” he said. “I’m finding it unacceptable there are times at which individuals in our board meetings are not wearing masks.  Despite any protests otherwise this isn’t a political hoax, this is a public health issue. There is no reason that myself or especially the staff who – this is a workplace for these individuals – there is no reason in the world why they should be subjected to an unsafe work environment, especially given the fact that we have a policy in all of our buildings that everyone must wear a mask. We as a Board should not be above this. We should make a statement that we expect all persons attending the meetings to wear a mask.”

A discussion followed.

Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) asked Kelley if he wanted a policy or a statement.

Kelley noted it may be semantics but asked what the difference was.

Johnson said, “a policy is legally binding and enforceable. That’s the difficulty with your request. It’s simply not enforceable. We’ve had information that if we call law enforcement they’re not going to enforce it.

I have no more control over you than you have over me in my position her on the board. Only our constituents have control over us in our positions here. The enforceable part is what bothers me. As an old teacher I know you’re not going to ask a student to sit down if you’re not going to make him.”

The discussion ended with no resolution.

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