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Spring break is safe … for now

“The big news is spring break is safe right now,” said Chairman Kim Farson as she explained Halifax County students, teachers and administrators have no days they have to make up at this point. 

Farson provided the board with a letter from the Virginia Department of Education outlining why no make-up days are yet required.

Previously, it had been explained 11 days were built into the calendar for make-up days. However, due to snow days, a total of 13 days have been missed so far this year. 

According to the Virginia Department of Education, the first five days missed must be made up, but these days have been taken care of by using five of the 11 “built in days.” 

After the fifth day, every two days missed requires one make-up day, so day six through day 13 would mean four make-up days are required, and they too have been covered by the “built in days.” 

So far, nine of the built-in days have been used to cover the 13 days missed leaving two more built-in days. 

If the school division were to miss day 14 and day 15, the one make-up day needed would be covered by the 10th built-in day. 

And since students will attend school next Monday on a day previously changed from a workday to a full school day, that builds in yet another make-up day for days 16 and 17 if missed. 

In essence, four more days can be missed without any days having to be made up, said School Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon.

Even though the school board does not need to schedule any make-up days at this time, ED-8 School Board Trustee Walter Potts suggested it consider options for make-up days just in case. 

Elementary Education/Professional Development Director Linda Owen told the board options include adding 15 minutes to the beginning of the school day, Saturday classes or taking days from spring break. Memorial Day is also an option for a make-up day. 

Farson suggested the board hold off until their March 27 budget work session, which will now be a special meeting, to make that decision. 

“I think that will be plenty of time for us to hear from the public to get their feedback on what they would like us to do,” said Farson. 

The board also approved the 2014-2015 school year calendar brought by Owen Monday evening. 

Next year’s school year is slated to begin on Aug. 13 with first semester ending before Christmas on Dec. 19. School will reconvene on Jan. 7, and the last day will be May 29 with graduation on May 30. 

The school year will essentially start three school days earlier than this year giving time for more days during the breaks. 

The Thanksgiving holiday will be extended next year from Nov. 26-Nov. 28 with an early dismissal that Tuesday at 1 p.m.

Winter break will be from Dec. 22 - Dec. 31 with New Year’s holiday following on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2. 

Spring break will be April 6 - April 10 with an early dismissal the Friday prior at 1 p.m. 

Owen said this calendar would allow for 87 days for the first semester and 93 for the second. 

Make-up days were not placed in the calendar but will be addressed by the school board if needed. 

Assistant Superintendent Valdivia Marshall brought the Virginia School Board Association February 2014 policy manual update for the board to review and approve at its next regular meeting. 

Marshall said mostly minor changes are needed, but it provides some policies that have not been reviewed in five years. 

The assistant superintendent also called the board’s attention to the “Third-Party Complaints Against Employees” policy. 

The policy has been changed to say that a complaint should be filed as soon as possible after the alleged incident, usually within 15 school days, and will be processed promptly, usually within 15 days. 

Previously, the policy had stated that a complaint had to be filed within 30 days and would be processed within 60 days or less. 

Marshall stressed complaints should be made as quickly as possible, but no complaint would go unaddressed, even if filed after the 15 school days. 

 ED-6 School Board Trustee Fay Satterfield called everyone’s attention to the “Board-Staff Communications” policy. 

In the policy it states “The school board desires to develop and maintain the best possible working relationship with the employees of the school division. The school board welcomes the viewpoints of employees, and it shall allow time at its meetings for employees to be heard.” 

“The school board wants to hear from you,” Satterfield said reminding the public its feedback is always welcomed by the board.  

School board members also approved two changes to their upcoming meetings. 

 The date has been changed for what had planned to be an upcoming budget work session. The session will now be a special called meeting on Thursday, March 27, at 6 p.m. in the school board conference room of the Mary Bethune Office Complex. It was originally scheduled for March 24.  

Usually at the end of each regular board meeting, the school board goes into a closed meeting to discuss personnel, legal consultations and student discipline. 

These closed meeting sessions will now be held at the beginning of each regular school board meeting. 

The regular school board meeting, open to the public, will now start at 7:30 p.m. 

Farson said fellow board members brought the idea to her because some closed session meetings have lasted until midnight. 

The board stressed they would schedule their closed sessions to make sure the open meetings will begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. 

Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon also announced the April 7 regular board meeting would be held at Clays Mills Elementary School.

In other business Monday evening, the school board meeting also was called “a good night for Halifax County High School.” 

The high school boy’s basketball champions filled the meeting room, and Principal Albert Randolph thanked the school board for its support as the team made it “all the way to Conference 16. 

“I was most impressed to see how we all pulled together as a community,” said Randolph as he spoke about the boys’ “tremendous season.” 

Randolph also called attention to the theatre department whose students were winners this year. 

Greg Donner spoke on behalf of the students who could not attend due to a dress rehearsal for their upcoming play “Cinderella.” 

Donner said he was pleased to see the theatre department become Conference 16 champions as well. 

“We are going to keep fighting to go to state,” added Donner. 

Herndon also shared the names of winners of Delegate James Edmunds’ rural Virginia art contest. 

Winners included Cluster Springs Elementary kindergarten student Dylan Martin, Clays Mill Elementary first grader Kayden Worley, Cluster Springs Elementary second grader Leah Wright, South Boston Elementary fourth grader Meredith Williams, Meadville Elementary fifth grader Colby Hancock, Halifax County Middle School sixth grader Megan Powell, middle school seventh grader Jillian Crews, high school sophomore Raykwon Waller, high school junior Jada Gaines and high school senior Jamie Crews. 

These winners were previously invited to go to Richmond but could not go due to inclement weather.

Herndon said Edmunds and his assistant are working to have an event at Edmunds’ office to recognize the students. 

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

After emerging from closed session, the board unanimously approved a personnel report.