FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County School Board discussed the possibility of pay bumps for staff members in the district and the declining student population during a work session on Wednesday evening.

The board has been discussing pay increases for district staff since last year. The proposed budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year from Gov. Ralph Northam would give $897,032 to help continue to make the chances of increases a reality.

Superintendent Greg Drescher said money from the state would go toward “Standards of Quality” positions, which are the minimum number of positions the state identifies as needed to run a school. These positions include teachers, principals and counselors.

Drescher said that even if the district accepts the funds from the state, the division would have to ask for additional money from Warren County.

Drescher said that increasing salaries will hopefully solve another issue that the division faces: staff turnover. He said the division has been hiring 60 plus teachers every year.

“We are seeing a serious experience shortage that is impacting instruction and will ultimately have a negative impact on other aspects of our schools,” Drescher said. “The fewer experienced teachers we have, the fewer seasoned educators we will have to develop into leadership.”

Drescher said he hopes that the pay bumps will help keep teachers from going to neighboring counties once they get some experience under their belts.

“Our school system is a great place to work and learn,” he said. “We have wonderful people at every level. We address the needs of all of our students. We have programs that are the envy of other systems. If we cannot keep our experienced educators, our good works will begin to erode.”

Drescher said that the board is waiting for additional information about salaries from the Compensation and Classification Study. The board will hold a public hearing about the budget during its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Warren County Government Center.

The School Board also discussed how the student population has dropped during the 2018-2019 school year. Research done by the division indicates that the average daily student population for the district through March 31 is projected to be 5,163 students. The number is down from the 5,280 students during the 2017-2018 school year.

Several factors, including more students being home-schooled, smaller kindergarten classes vs. bigger high school graduating classes, are being seen as reasons for the student population decline. Drescher said the district is looking into ways to help stop the population drop, including reaching out to home-schooled students through the county’s part-time school option.

“There are some definite challenges,” he said. “However, I am confident that our community sees the impact that a quality school system has on a community, and they will support the funding needed to keep us moving forward.”

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