MELODY SHEPPARD

Melody Sheppard

At Thursday night's meeting, the Shenandoah County School Board unanimously approved authorization of an additional $9,817,106.18 to the FY22 budget.

The extra funds came from various CARES ACT funds given to the school division, according to Shenandoah County Public Schools Superintendent Melody Sheppard.

The additional money increases the budget to $94,849,106.18.

Sheppard said that at the April 29 school board meeting, the board approved 2,365,188 from CARES funds to be spent over the next three fiscal years. On Thursday board members added the remaining CARES II and ARP ESSER III funds. She said the federal programs director has submitted a spending plan to the Virginia Department of Education and is awaiting approval of the plan. If the plan is approved the request will provide an additional $1,278,415.12 in CARES II and $8,183,015.03 in ARP ESSER III funds.

She said the funds will be used for salaries, PPE, technology support for teachers, technology devices, student internet access, summer school stipends, after-school tutoring and capital improvement projects.

The school division is also adding $355,976.03 from the American Recovery Plan Act funding for IDEA 611 and IDEA 619 programs. Sheppard said the money will be used to provide targeted educational interventions for students with disabilities in summer learning academies in the summer of 2022 and 2023, crisis intervention training and Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling training for special education teachers and staff.

"As we developed our budget for how we plan to spend our CARES funds we identified capital projects that were part of the capital improvement plan in January 2021," Sheppard said. "We identified $2,272, 992.00 in capital projects that relate to ventilation, heating and cooling that could be paid out of CARES funds."

Sheppard said that she also received notification on Aug. 30 that the 2021 special session II of the General Assembly appropriated an additional $1,118,161 to Shenandoah County Public Schools to support qualifying expenses for ventilation replacement and improvement projects for public school facilities to improve air quality for students and staff for continued in-person instruction. Requests for these funds will be coming at October's School Board meeting.

Sheppard said the capital improvement projects requested for FY22 was $4,225,465. She said out of the $4,225,465 capital improvement request the schools will need $1,952,472 to complete the capital improvement projects that were urgent or necessary that they can not fund from CARES funds. Sheppard said she is requesting the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors to still borrow the $4,225,465 and allow the school system to apply the funds to both the FY22 and FY23 for capital improvement projects that are urgent and necessary. She said the FY23 projects include fire alarm panel replacements, vestibule renovations at two elementary schools for security, roof replacements among other capital projects.

"We have almost $6 million dollars of capital improvement projects slated for 2022-2023 and most of those are urgent and necessary," Sheppard said.

Accreditation

Shenandoah County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Innovation Gabrielle Ryman and Shenandoah County Public Schools Director of Teaching Learning and Innovation Chad Hensley gave an update on accreditation.

Ryman reminded the board that results from the last two years of Standards Of Learning tests will not be used in determining accreditation. The results from this year and from the 2018-19 and 2017-18 school years will be used instead.

Last month the Virginia Department of Education released the 2020-21 SOL tests results. Shenandoah County's pass rates were 58% in English/reading, 46% in math and 44% in science. In 2018-19, the division's results were 67% in English/reading, 76% in math and 77% in science.

Hensley showed an illustration of things the division is doing or are looking into to improve the scores, including adjustments in course pacing, targeting resources to support unfinished learning, formal and informal assessments to monitor students, before and after hours support for students and collaborative planning among teachers, administrators and school board office instructional staff.

Ryman said that from Sept. 27-Oct. 15 there will be reading and math growth assessments given to students in grades 3-8. She said this came down from the General Assembly legislation passed in the spring. She said students will be assessed on previous grade level content.

She said the assessment will not be done on a traditional SOL scale of 0-600 and will also not be considered as a pass-fail type either. Ryman said the tests are more to evaluate where each student is at at this point to help them improve. She said student performance will be considered along with the 2020-21 SOL scores to determine school and division growth calculations towards accreditation.

Edulog

Shenandoah County Public Schools Supervisor of Transportation Lucas Long gave a presentation on the Edulog Parent Portal.

Edulog, is a transportation routing software, and has the ability to provide parents with updates and alerts on bus stop information.

Long said they are starting to use the app with parents of students at W.W. Robinson Elementary and they hope to expand to the entire school division next semester.

Long said this year every school bus is equipped with GPS, which allows the transportation department to respond to questions and allows mechanics to respond quickly to bus locations.

With the app, parents can find out transportation information and real-time bus location. Long said they can even get a notification to their phone when the bus is within a mile of their child's bus stop.

"We have successfully piloted it with some of the parents at W.W. (Robinson)," Long said. "And are now introducing it to the entire campus. We will utilize these next couple months to work out the kinks with one school location before releasing it division-wide after the semester change."

Staffing

Linda Hodges gave an update on staffing in the school division. She said they filled 132 of the 149 vacancies they had. She said they have 130 employees that are new to Shenandoah County Public Schools.

She said that they do have 17 unfilled teacher vacancies, including six school counselors.

"We started the year with 11 long-term substitutes, and six of them are finishing requirements to be a teacher," Hodges said. "We'll bring those to you as appointments as soon as they have completed their program. Principals have worked hard to cover the remaining positions, by assigning additional blocks to existing teachers, increasing class sizes as they can and providing additional support through the assistance of paraprofessionals. Due to the shortage of school counselors we also hired counselor interns to assist us with providing counselor services. These interns are in the final year of their counseling program and we hope that they will chose to return to SCPS as a school counselor next year.

"In addition to counselor interns we've also hired what we call classroom counselors, who bring substantial counseling experience from the private sector, and they're providing support by leading counseling lessons in the classroom."

Work-based learning

Todd Lynn, supervisor of career and technical education and STEM, gave an update on work-based learning in the school division. Lynn said that the number of students in the Co-Op program were down the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are hopeful they will be much better this year.

In 2018, there were 35 students in the Co-Op program, 368 who did internships, 112 who did job shadows and 32 who gained clinical experience.

During the last two years combined there were only nine Co-Ops and three internships.

This year they are providing something new as they will be hiring four students to Co-Op with Shenandoah County Public Schools. One will work in the bus garage, one in maintenance and two in technology.

He said they will likely be Triplett Tech students. They will begin next semester and have until June 30 to work 280 hours to earn one high school credit. The rate of pay will be $11 an hour for the automotive technician and for the two technician assistants and $13 an hour for the electrician's helper.

"The way we look at it is it's a win-win for everybody," Lynn said. "It helps the schools with accreditation towards their College, Civic and Career Readiness Index. We also get a chance to attract, keep and retain a hard job. It's an interview for them, it's an interview for us. Most importantly, I feel like it's a great opportunity for our students. We can teach them a lot of things in the classroom, but at the end of the day until you go out and do it there's nothing that replaces that valuable experience."

The School Board also unanimously approved awarding a division-wide copier contract to Xerox and one policy change. They also approved the personnel report, which included 10 appointments, one transfer, eight long-term substitutes, four resignations, one coaching resignation and one leave without pay.

All of the School Board members, Marty Helsley, Andrew Keller, Shelby Kline, Michelle Manning, Chair Cynthia Walsh and Karen Whetzel, attended the meeting in person.

Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com