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HVAC upgrades due by Aug. 1

Upgrades to the HVAC system at the Halifax County High School should be completed by Aug. 1. 

That was the date that Maintenance Director Doug Newcomb committed to at the special meeting for the Halifax County School Board Monday night. 

The board also approved the hiring of Consulting Engineer Robert Bouknight of RKB
Engineering at $9,500. This fee includes travel and expenses, but not reproduction costs for contract documents. 

RKB Engineering will prepare plans, specifications and contract documents for procurement of mechanical measures recommended as immediate needs in the report on the HVAC system in HCHS. 

The measures recommended include installing air conditioning for the ground level classrooms of the C wing that currently do not have air conditioning, adding cooling/dehumidification system for the boys and girl’s locker rooms and adding a hot water reset valve for the heating system.

They also include adding return air humidity and CO2 sensors, revising the control sequence for dehumidification and demand control ventilation and replacing the AHU damper systems to achieve good control of outdoor air. 

It is anticipated that HCS personnel will immediately begin working to complete adding return air humidity and CO2 sensors while work is begun on bringing in contractors. 

Bouknight feels that its best for personnel to begin some of this hands on work to give them a better understanding of the equipment so they can ultimately use it most effectively. 

However, some of the work cannot be completed without outside contractors and an empty building. 

ED-6 School Board Member Fay Satterfield questioned if the upgrades to the HVAC would guarantee the chances of mold not reoccurring in the high school. 

Bouknight reminded the board members that the system does not create or eliminate mold from forming in the school. 

However, he feels that this is not a “let’s try this and see if it works type of thing.” 

With the adding of the air humidity and CO2 sensors specifically, it will decrease the chances of that happening again, according to Bouknight. 

The upgrades will be used to maintain the proper heating, cooling and humidity throughout the entire school year long rather than shutting off the system during the summer decreasing the chances of mold reoccurring. 

“We are going to put everything in place to keep mold from coming back and that’s all we can do,” said ED9 Board Member Walter Potts. 

The board also approved the Request for Proposal for Food Service Management Company brought by Superintendent Merle Herndon to be sent to the Virginia Department of Education with a 7 to 1 vote. Satterfield voted no.  

Within the proposal, board members have to decide if the local School Food Service Authority (SFA) or the FSMC will employ the current food service employees. 

As written in the RFP currently, the local School Food Service Authority will employ the food services employees.

The RFP will be sent to the DOE for any changes they would like to make before returning to the board. The board will then be allowed to make further changes at that point. 

Also in the RFP, the SFA reserves the right to interview and approve the on-site food service manager/director and must designate if the current SFA or be subject to employment by the FSMC. Employees, excluding the general manager and administrative assistant, will be retained by the SFA. 

The FSMC shall provide the SFA with a schedule of employees, positions, assigned locations, salaries, and hours to be worked as part of the proposal. 

According to Herndon, in the majority of situations, “the current employees remain employed by the local and as new employees are hired they would not be our employees, they would be employees of the FSMC.” 

“Or we could say we want to lean more towards employees being all by the FSMC,” said Herndon. 

Potts said he was in favor of keeping the employees for a minimum of two years. 

“If somebody stays then decide to leave then they’ll still be able to draw what benefits they have. Then after that second year we could go all of it or just leave it, I’m not quite sure how I want to do that,” said Potts. 

Members of the public questioned if that meant they would lose their job after two years.  

 “By no means are we trying to do anything against the employees,” said Chairman Kim Farson. 

“We want the employees to understand we are trying to bring in resources and programs to benefit the whole school system and not by any means does it mean in two years we are going to say you all are out.”  

Several school board members expressed that they had also received several phone calls from employees with concerns about losing their job and the members expressed that that was not the case. 

If any employee was to decide to stay on longer than two years, Potts said, “We are going to let you keep on working, that’s what I have in mind.” 

Vice-Chairman Dick Stoneman said, “We are not here to make you lose your job.” 

Potts also added, “If you don’t hear it from the lips of the eight of us, then don’t worry about it. All the rumors do is get everyone all worked up about nothing.”  

The REP will now be sent to the Virginia Department of Education for approval before the board can review companies. 

Board members expressed that the sending of the REP did not make any type of commitment to any company, it allows for the board to seek information from the companies.  

According to Farson, if they were to hire a company, that company would customize the food service according to what the school system requested. 

 “They do not just come in here and take over,” said Farson. 

As far as the FSMC making profit, Herndon said they are “banking on us selling more food.” 

“What they are banking on is they are going to make everything more attractive, offer different kinds of food, more variety, and they can buy in bigger bulk,” said Herndon. 

Currently eight school divisions use a FSMC with one of the following companies, Sodexo, Cartwheel and Aramark. 

In other unfinished business, the board approved for the school division to continue purchasing gasoline in the way they have been. 

According to Transportation Director David Guill, Halifax County, for many years, has been buying on “what they call a rack plus margin price from the distributor.” 

“That means whoever you get to bring your fuel is basically going to pay the same price when they get it from wherever they go and that price changes every day,” said Guill.  

The board was given the option to try to bid on a set price for the entire year. 

The superintendent also gave an update on a discussion she had with the Board of Supervisors on Anthem. 

Both the county and the school division use the Anthem insurance. The county has 188 insured and the school division has 780 and they are currently in talks of joining together to pay the insurance. 

As of right now, they both have slightly different plans and payments, which have to be worked out. 

No action was made regarding the insurance. 

 Prior to adjourning, board members went into closed session to discuss personnel and legal consultations. 

No action was taken.