Schools to request $1 million additional for next fiscal year

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff writer

A shift in school instructional priorities and an increased focus on infrastructure, are at the center of the Isle of Wight County schools proposed budget presented by Superintendent Jim Thornton last week.

The nearly $60 million budget is based on Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed budget and would be based on a four percent increase in funding from the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors.

Spending on instruction would go up more than $1 million under this proposed budget and the funds will go toward areas that will help the system achieve its new “deeper learning” philosophy. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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This includes almost $400,00 for computer coding teachers for elementary through high school levels.

During a presentation on career and technical education, Heather Tuck, assistant superintendent, said that computer programming was a growing employment field and that students in the schools weren’t getting the opportunities to pursue that option.

There will also be additional funds for instructional coaches who will be hired by the county and work out of the schools as “learning experts.” Increases in athletics, professional development and $450,000 more for substitutes were also in the instructional budget.

The deeper learning philosophy the school system is touting is based on High Tech High, a school in California that has achieved high levels of college acceptance for its students.

The new approach to instruction will have a greater emphasis on technology and will include funding for projects like maker spaces, where students can lean how to use tools like 3D printers and laser cutters.

Thornton’s budget would also give increase operational support by $953,893, including nearly $600,000 more for maintenance, as well as increases for bus drivers and transport, and a bump in tech funding.

In the past, the county has done a good job of directing funds toward instruction, but in the process it had neglected the learning infrastructure, he said.

The result is buildings beginning to show their age.

Large increases in these areas won’t be able to be totally funded with increased spending from the county and the state, so there was reallocation of existing funds as well.

The proposed budget cut out more than $100,000 from the administration, attendance and health budget by outsourcing healthcare and reducing administrative staff.

Food services would see an 11 percent decrease in funding, bringing the total to just over $2.09 million.

At a budget workshop last week, Thornton said they were going to look into their food service next year because many students won’t eat the meals, and for some of students, it’s the only meal they get. The schools are decreasing the funding partially because fewer kids are eating the meals.

There will also be a 30 percent increase in revenue from fees and other services, bringing the total to $238,000. The increase is due to people renting out school buildings and students going on field trips.

Thornton said McAuliffe’s budget shows an increase of $814,853 for the county schools, but only $450,450 of that was new money. The rest would be tied up in the Virginia Retirement System and three new instructional positions, he said. Thornton did tell the board this number could change as the House and Senate introduce their own budgets.

The Isle of Wight Count School Board will hold a public hearing on the budget tomorrow night at George D. Tyler Middle School at 6:30 p.m.  {/mprestriction}