By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack County Public Schools fiscal year 2022 operating budget of nearly $59.8 million was unanimously approved by the school board Tuesday night.
The approved budget included about $956,000 in additional spending made possible by Accomack schools receiving more funding from Virginia’s state budget than originally anticipated.
The budget originally proposed $1.7 million for a 4.5% raise for all full-time Accomack teachers and staff, but $190,000 was added to increase the raise to 5%.
Accomack elementary schools will get nine more instructional assistants at a cost of $200,000. An additional guidance counselor was budgeted for $63,000, whose time likely will be split between Kegotank and Metompkin elementary schools.
Arcadia and Nandua middle schools each will get an assistant principal for a budgeted total of $178,000.
Accomack schools also set aside $95,000 to hire someone to coordinate programs for talented and gifted students, English learners, and migrant children.
Rounding out the additional expenditures were about $196,000 for school facility improvements and $33,500 to cover the shortfall within the budget as it was originally proposed.
The Accomack school board approved the calendar for the 2021-2022 school year. Superintendent Chris Holland said he had received positive feedback on the current school calendar, and next year’s calendar will be similar and use the same easy-to-read format.
The 2021-2022 school calendar includes 1,086 instructional hours, about 10% more than required by state law.
Virginia code states a standard school year consists of at least 180 instructional days or 990 instructional hours, with at least 5.5 instructional hours in the average school day.
Accomack schools include six hours and 10 minutes of instruction in each school day.
The new school calendar will include 10 inclement weather days again, plus additional hours for two-hour delays and other weather-related school scheduling issues – about 15 total school days that can be missed for inclement weather.
School board member Janet Turner pointed out that the last two winters have been mild and Accomack schools did not need 15 inclement weather days.
Each marking period is actually less than nine weeks, and if Accomack schools reduced the number of inclement weather days, the extra days could be used to extend each marking period, giving teachers more time for instruction or grading, Turner said.
She made a motion to cut the total number of inclement weather days built into the school year from 15 to seven; school board member Edward Taylor seconded the motion.
The motion failed, with only Turner and Taylor voting in favor. A motion to accept the school calendar as presented passed with six school board members in favor and Turner and Taylor opposed.
Accomack schools will continue the practice of lengthening school breaks with unused inclement weather days.
The school board also approved Eastern Shore Rural Health (ESRH) applying for a $400,000 grant to equip a new dental clinic proposed at Nandua Middle School.
ESRH already operates two dental units that serve Accomack students, one each at Metompkin and Pungoteague elementary schools, and one mobile unit.
The new dental clinic at Nandua Middle School would be built at no cost to Accomack County.
Dr. Tiffany Nightengale and Dr. Stephanie Shelley, the dentists primarily serving Metompkin Elementary and Pungoteague Elementary, respectively, spoke of the importance of adding a dental clinic to serve Accomack’s middle and high school students.
The new clinic would be staffed by one dentist and three support staff members.
If ESRH’s application is approved, the grant will be awarded in September and the project must be completed within 120 days. Holland agreed to help find a location for the clinic in the meantime.
The school dental clinics have operated since 1992 and have served more than 5,000 children during more than 33,000 visits.