Improvement projects, school lunches dominate school board meeting

By Heather Michon

The students may be away, but Fluvanna County Public Schools are buzzing with activity.

“A lot of people ask, ‘So you get all summer off?’” Executive Director Don Stribling joked as he presented updates to the School Board at its meeting on Wednesday (June 12).

Mandatory school safety audits are complete, 140 vape detectors are being installed, and HVAC upgrades at Carysbrook Elementary are on schedule. 

Renovations to the high school track field are going well, but the more extensive track project at the middle school may have hit some bumps.

Stribling said the project would see major cost savings by using a process that chops up the old track as fill rather than having to bring in fresh crushed stone.

But before that can happen, they need to select a company to install new drainage on the field.

If they can’t complete that work in July, contractors may not have time to lay the new track until next spring. Stribling explained that temperatures need to stay over  50 degrees for a period of several weeks to allow the new surface to cure.

School meals

Food Services Director Gwen Jones said all students will be able to access free breakfast and lunch for the next four years through the USDA’s Community Eligibility Provision (CEP).

Rather than requiring individual families to apply for the free school meals program, the CEP program looks at the percentage of students who would be eligible to apply. If 25 percent or more of the district’s students are eligible, the benefit applies to the whole district, and no application is needed.    

In the most recent analysis,  38 percent of Fluvanna students are eligible.

Jones said that a la carte options would be coming back to the high school and middle school for kids who wanted to add a little something to their meals.

Staff, on the other hand, will pay a little more for their meals. Adult meal pricing is increasing from $3.75 to $5.50.

The summer meals program is also underway. Through August 31, meal kits containing five breakfasts and five lunches will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the Fluvanna County Library on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Comments and charters 

With chair Andrew Pullen absent for the evening, Andre Key (Rivanna) chaired the meeting. James Kelley (Palmyra) participated remotely due to illness.

Several residents gave public comments at the start of the meeting, focusing primarily on the Virginia School Board Association (VSBA). This organization provides legal and policy guidance to member districts and has an active lobbying presence in Richmond. 

Some school districts in Central Virginia have recently voted to leave the VSBA over political differences.

Fluvanna’s School Board had already voted to renew their membership earlier this year, but with approval of the payment of the annual dues on the agenda for Wednesday evening, residents turned out to encourage support for the VSBA.

The motion to approve the dues payment passed 4-0.

After coming under criticism for some of his comments at the May meeting, Charles Rittenhouse used his time during member comments to say, “I do want to apologize to everybody for the way I acted this last school board meeting.”

While it wasn’t mentioned during the meeting, it emerged later in the week that School Board members had been informed that the LIFE PREP charter school application was submitted to the Virginia Department of Education on May 20 and was about to start the state review process. 

The review process could potentially take several months.

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