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Study: To save money, 2 schools should close

Closing two elementary schools, adding personnel to the school’s central office in Halifax and removing high school lockers for scrap metal are among some of the 122 recommendations found in the 487-page comprehensive efficiency review School Superintendent Paul Stapleton released Wednesday afternoon.

 

Prismatic Services began its efficiency review of the Halifax County School System in September of last year, and it was completed last month. 

The 13-step process awarded 38 commendations and made 122 recommendations to Halifax County Public Schools.

Of the 122 recommendations, Prismatic suggested closing two elementary schools that would ultimately result in savings of $2,750,000 annually.

The review stopped short of selecting which two schools should be closed, but it deemed the closings necessary to eliminate administration, custodial, paraprofessional and some teaching positions. 

Prismatic used Sydnor Jennings Elementary School as an example since it has one of the smaller enrollments in the county. 

If the school board decided to close Sydnor Jennings, it would be a savings of $1,398,092, they pointed out on the utilities, water, ground maintenance, maintenance costs, staffing and transportation for students. 

Meadville Elementary, Sinai Elementary and Clays Mill Elementary also have small enrollments compared to Cluster Springs Elementary, Scottsburg Elementary and South Boston Elementary.

Before any action is taken, the board would have to perform a redistricting study, which could cost up to $75,000. However, it would show the best attendance boundaries, address future enrollment trends, minimize transportation costs and balance student demographics such as free and reduced lunches. 

The study would take nearly six months to complete so the earliest any schools would be closed could be June 2013.

In addition to closing elementary schools, restructuring central office also is recommended in an effort to eliminate higher paid officials in lieu of hiring more lower paid staff.

According to the study, central office needs only two executives responsible for division level operations.

It called for the addition of a chief academic officer who would be responsible for all education programs and a chief financial officer who would take care of all business related activities.

Also needed is a supervisor of human resources who would report to the superintendent, and the study adds testing and professional development to the supervisor of assessment and staff development’s responsibilities also would report to the superintendent for a trial period of three years.

Also added is a technology director and supervisor of instruction technology position.

By eliminating the deputy superintendent position, the school system will save approximately $150,000 per year, which will be used to create the position of supervisor of human resources necessary due to the elimination of the deputy superintendent position. The supervisor of human resources position will cost $83,659 with benefits, according to the study.

Rebalancing classroom loads by putting more students in classes at both elementary and middle and high schools could save over $500,000, according to the study.

Reducing the number of classes in the elementary schools could eliminate five teachers for a savings of $265,310, and $264,100 could be saved by eliminating five teachers at the middle and high schools, the study stated.

In addition, the study takes into account Halifax County Public School employees have not had a raise in four years. 

Prismatic recommends the board consider reducing non-teaching and non-principal employees so those savings can be used to budget salary increases for the remaining employees. 

Prismatic commended the school system’s human resource department and payroll for their accuracy of assignments of salaries to teachers in accordance with existing salary schedules.

Prismatic also recommended the transportation office hire a full-time bus router to establish more efficient bus routing. 

The transportation office needs to replace 10 buses a year at $750,000, according to the review that also recommends removing all activity buses from the fleet. 

Currently the system has 51 cars, and only 17 are running routes. Prismatic recommends reducing the car fleet by 20. 

Currently the transportation office has nine cars on the lot considered junk cars, and Prismatic suggested disposal of the “junk” cars because they are “eye sores.”

In order to save money, Prismatic recommended adopting staggered bell times at elementary schools throughout the county or combining schools on bus routes.

“Every bus route that can be eliminated by combining two bus routes saves approximately the cost of one school teacher,” the efficiency review stated.

Halifax County Public Schools were commended on being generally well- maintained with a maintenance department that consists of an appropriate and sufficient number of personnel; however, the department is using an “antiquated” work order management system and does not have a complete preventative maintenance program, Prismatic found. 

It was recommended the school system upgrade to the CMMS software, to one of the newer CMMS solutions that is administered online to create an efficient preventative maintenance program that could cost less than $10,000 to implement. The new software would enable the maintenance department to provide automated work orders, preventative maintenance scheduling and comprehensive reporting.

At the high school, Prismatic suggested administrators remove all lockers for safety and improvement of student behavior. Selling the 1,000 lockers as scrap metal could bring in approximately $4,800.

The elimination of division-wide LAN manager positions was recommended due to the fact that computers in labs have grown outdated, and Prismatic also suggested updating the food service policy manual.

Prismatic used Danville City, Dinwiddie, Henry and Mecklenburg counties to compare Halifax County to throughout the efficiency review and also Franklin, Pittsylvania, Pulaski and Rockingham counties for transportation purposes only. 

They provided three groups to give input during the process: participating were 683 students in the 11th and 12th grade, 291 parents and 680 of 1,111 staff members. 

For more information on Prismatic’s recommendations, visit www.gazettevirginian.com