By Kasey Trapuzzano
The Botetourt County School Board held its regular July meeting at the School Board Office in Fincastle on July 14.
The meeting started at 5:30 p.m. and immediately went into a closed session until 6:30 p.m. After reconvening to a public meeting, the board unanimously motioned to accept the consent agenda.
The board unanimously approved the recommended 2022-23 COVID-19 leave days for Botetourt County Public Schools (BCPS) faculty and staff. Dr. John Russ, the BCPS superintendent, said it’s his recommendation that faculty and staff be granted five COVID-19 leave days for the upcoming academic year.
“We’ve done this the last couple of years,” Russ said. “The longest required quarantine now is up to five days, so we requested that [COVID-19] leave days in the amount of five days be granted, if needed, to all employees, faculty and staff this year.”
Russ said these five COVID-19 leave days are “above and beyond” regular sick days and that employees will still get paid if they must use the leave days.
Next, the board unanimously approved authorization for the superintendent to ask the Board of Supervisors to appropriate and allocate the additional state revenue for the FY23 budget. Brandon Lee, BCPS director of finance, presented the FY23 updated general fund state revenue, which totals to $2,410,103. With the board’s approval, Lee and Russ will attend the next Board of Supervisors meeting July 26.
Russ made his monthly superintendent’s report on budget and finance, human resources and health services, instruction, maintenance and operations, and technology. During the report, Russ said the budget and finance department is working with school bookkeepers in preparation for the annual School Activity Fund Audit. Additionally, Russ said the budget and finance department is working through year end processes and has continued monitoring of FY22 expenditures and revenues through period 13.
“In other words, they’re ‘closing out’ this past school year,” Russ said.
Russ said during the classified job fair hosted by the human resources and operations department on June 23 at Lord Botetourt High School several needed positions were filled. Russ also said 102 new employees have been onboarded for positions in the school division during June and July.
In the department of instruction, Russ said eight advanced placement (AP) teachers participated in College Board training — which must be done every three years — and completed AP Summer Institutes in June. Two students completed graduation requirements during the high school summer academy, and those diplomas were presented at a graduation ceremony June 1, Russ said. Additionally, Russ said the special education department completed a Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) review this past spring, where it was determined that BCPS is compliant in all areas. The review required completion of the Core Special Education Assessment, submission of records, phone conferences and an on-site visit from VDOE staff.
In terms of maintenance and operations, Russ said the school safety committee met on June 22, which consists of representatives from BCPS, the Sheriff’s Office, Fire & EMS, and County Administration. Russ said BCPS entered a contract with Hoffman Mechanical Solutions, Inc. on June 21 to begin heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) preventative maintenance for all schools and facilities.
At Cloverdale Elementary, new sewer lines were installed by James Buck Plumbing and Heating and the maintenance department is working on installing new toilets. At LBHS, Russ said AquaSpores completed mold mitigation in targeted areas. Andy Dewease, BCPS director of operations, said many of the targeted areas were in instructional spaces behind dry wall.
“AquaSpores started the last week of June and was able to come in a remediate many of those primary targeted areas,” Dewease said. “The mold is gone from these spaces; however, we still have some put back to do in terms of caulking, insulation and dry wall, but that is nothing to prevent the start of [the] school [year].”
Additionally, Russ said news desks and cabinets were installed in the human resources department and reception area at the School Board Office by Harris Office Furniture and that Obaugh HVAC Mechanical started work on chiller replacements at James River High School (JRHS) and the Botetourt Technical Education Center (BTEC).
Dewease said the permanent chiller replacements will be delivered in August for BTEC and September for JRHS, but that there are currently temporarily chillers in place. Tim Davidick, board member for the Valley District, said during his time on the board over the past three years, he’s seen chiller replacements done at LBHS, Greenfield Elementary School, and Read Mountain Middle School (RMMS), and hopes to see plans for the other school buildings in the future.
After the chiller replacements are installed at BTEC and JRHS, five out of the 11 BCPS school buildings will have newer systems — at least three years or younger.
Russ said the transportation department is preparing bus routes for the 2022-23 academic year and will be made public to parents once finalized.
In terms of technology, Russ said technicians are completing summer maintenance, including preparing 5th and 9th grade Chrome Books for distribution and updates to PCs and panels. The Master Schedule Collection and the Student Record Collection were successfully submitted to VDOE, Russ said. The Palo Alto firewall that all Internet traffic goes through to and from BCPS school buildings was upgraded, which will provide a more secure network for all schools. Lastly, Russ said the Post-Submission Data Quality Outreach and Corrections process for the 2021-22 Civil Rights Data Collection is in progress to verify that the submission is accurate.
Lastly, Russ said there’s been a lot of talk on whether Botetourt 6th grade students should or shouldn’t be allowed to participate in middle school sports.
“There are pros and cons for both [sides],” Russ said. “The bottom line is, we’re not at a point as a school division to recommend for [the board] to vote on letting 6th graders participate in middle school sports, and I’m not at the point for recommending that they don’t participate in middle school sports. There are school divisions that are going to move to this, and we’re going to keep an eye on it…So the current situation for this fall sports season is that 6th graders will not participate in middle school athletics… that could change for the upcoming seasons. My message to [the board] for winter might be the same, or it might be let’s let them [play].
Russ said there are written guidelines from regional middle schools that say 6th graders shouldn’t participate in middle school sports, but not actual policies and mandates put in place against it.
Additionally, Russ said he and Dewease are looking into creating a space at RMMS for weightlifting and training. Currently, Central Academy Middle School (CAMS) has a weight room for its middle schoolers, but RMMS doesn’t, so its students must go to LBHS after school for weightlifting. Davidick said that since the weight room at LBHS already has “very limited space,” he applauds “the intent to find a space at Read Mountain where students can weight train.”
The next regular School Board meeting will be held on August 11 at 5:30 p.m. To watch July’s School Board meeting in its entirety, visit https://www.bcps.live/archives/. To read this month’s School Board agenda package, visit https://go.boarddocs.com/vsba/bcps/Board.nsf/Public.