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Roanoke County School Board considers outside-the-box ideas for classroom options

Roanoke County School Board considers outside-the-box ideas for classroom options

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Going to class at Tanglewood Mall? That was one of the ideas floated Thursday to the Roanoke County School Board. Board members had a lengthy discussion about what next steps they may be able to take to eventually send more students back to the classroom.

“There’s gotta be a way to make this work,” member Tim Greenway said, later adding: “We can’t just not educate these kids forever.”

Greenway’s suggestion to look into commercial space like Tanglewood was in addition to a discussion about whether to use modular trailers. The board ultimately declined to act on the trailer idea and moved forward with exploring alternative spaces.

It would have cost an estimated total of $6.6 million to use a maximum 32 trailers to house fourth and fifth grade students, according to the plan that Director of Finance Susan Peterson presented. They could be installed and phased in between January and March, said Construction Manager Chris Lowe.

The board was skeptical about whether the trailers would be ready in time, and members were concerned they’d still be on the hook for the cost if that happened.

A bonus and raise for employees

After considering giving employees a one-time bonus, board members recently turned their attention to a potential step increase. After discussing both options at length, the board on Thursday leaned in favor of giving all employees a step increase.

In addition, they discussed giving a $500 bonus to employees who would see little to no increase from the raise, either because they have already reached the maximum step or because they are lower-paid.

Before members vote on the proposed plan, the board must decide whether to make the step increase retroactive to July 1 and determine which pay steps would receive the bonus. Board members asked Peterson to provide a more definitive cost analysis.

The pay scale is currently frozen due to the budget uncertainties when the board passed the budget in the spring, but the district netted $6 million from a surplus at the June 30 end of the budget year. The board is considering funding the additional compensation from a portion of the carryover funds.

The board would need to seek the board of supervisors’ permission to use the surplus for a step increase since those are recurring costs. In addition, the school board would need to fund the cost in future years, which Peterson said presented some level of risk.

“I think it’s worth the risk,” Greenway said. “I think it tells our teachers … that we appreciate them.”

Chairman Mike Wray said he would discuss the idea of using the surplus for a step increase with Supervisors Chairman David Radford. The board could also dip into health insurance reserves as an alternative.

In other business, the board agreed to livestream all future meetings.

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K-12 Education Reporter

Claire Mitzel covers K-12 education for The Roanoke Times. Contact her at (540) 981-3334 or claire.mitzel@roanoke.com. Follow her on Twitter: @c_mitzel.

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