|New Schools Q & A: Answers to Your Questions about Our New Schools and Consolidation|
As we move through the process of implementing the plan of consolidation and relocation of schools, the Dickenson County Public Schools leadership wants to maintain clear and open lines of communication with all stakeholders: staff, students, parents, and the community as a whole. We have established this site to share your questions and our answers. If you have a question about the process and our progress, it is likely that others have the same question. To make sure that everyone has access to the questions and answers, we will regularly post questions and answers on this site.
To ask your question(s), please send the question(s) by email to email@example.com or by regular mail to Supt. Haydee L. Robinson, PO Box 1127, Clintwood, VA 24228. Your answer will be posted on this site.
(If the email link above does not work on your computer, please type or copy the address into the "To:" line of the email.)
Each question will appear below; to view the answer to the question, click anywhere on the text of the question.
A1: The consolidated comprehensive high school is tentatively scheduled to be built and completed in the fall of 2013. The consolidated middle school may be completed in 2013, but a more realistic date may be the fall of 2014. The completion time for the K - 5 school for Sandlick and Clinchco is 2014 or 2015. The time frame for the completion of all the school projects is approximately 5 years.
Q2: If there is going to be a consolidated middle school, I was wondering which school will become the elementary school, Longs Fork or Clintwood? I assume that there would not be enough money or students to warrant keeping them both.
A2:If there is a consolidated middle school, the remaining elementary schools in the division will be restructured to K - 5. With the smaller enrollments at Longs Fork Elementary and Clintwood Elementary School, combining both schools into one school in the Clintwood area may be an essential option especially with limited and dwindling funding. If that option is implemented, no decision has been made regarding which school will become the elementary school for the Clintwood area.
A3: In the Army Corps of Engineers plans, the school buildings that are located on the flood plain will be demolished: Sandlick Elementary, Ervinton High School and Clinchco Elementary School. The practice fields, the athletic fields, and adjacent parking lots located near these schools may remain for the use of little league and community teams. The buildings by the river at Haysi High School will also be demolished; however, Haysi High School does not have to be demolished.
A4: The funding appropriated by the Army Corps of Engineers is only allocated for relocation and flood proofing at Sandlick Elementary, Ervinton High School and Clinchco Elementary and the adjacent buildings at Haysi High School. The funding cannot be used for renovations at these sites or any other school buildings in the division.
A5: While the final appropriations are currently being negotiated with the Army Corps of Engineers, Dickenson County is only responsible to provide a 5% matching fund. For example, if the final appropriations from the Corps are $100,000,000, Dickenson County will only have to provide $5,000,000 which is returned to the county and becomes part of the appropriations.
A6: The Dickenson County School Board is committed first and foremost to employing and retaining its best and most qualified teachers and staff members to teach and work with our children now and in the future. The goal is and will continue to be maintaining optimum levels of staffing to provide high quality instructional programs. Because of the historic budget cuts the school division faced during the 2009 – 2010 school year, the School Board and administration began a process of carefully evaluating staffing and staffing needs as openings occurred in the school division. Since this process began, only essential staff positions have been replaced: for example, a Spanish teacher or an elementary teacher. With the remainder of the openings, we have implemented a process to share staff members between buildings to meet the needs of our instructional programs within the constraints of our budget. We will continue to carefully evaluate staffing needs due to retirements and other normal attrition, and continue to increase the number of shared staff members between buildings instead of hiring new personnel when appropriate and when it can meet the instructional needs of students. We do not expect consolidation plans to change the process of evaluation of optimum staffing levels already in place.
Q7: I understand that while many children may end up with a shorter bus ride, those on the outer edges of the county will have an additional travel time of 15-20 minutes. Have you made any considerations to alter the school schedule to accommodate for the longer day? Also have you considered changing bus routes to make those kids have a shorter travel time?
A7: We are looking at all options as to how best to accommodate student ride time on buses. We know that the length of bus rides is an issue in our county now and will continue to be as we transport students to the new school sites. We are currently entering the physical addresses of all students on GPS software that will allow us to have more accurate data on the location of students and will help us to establish efficient bus transportation routes. We have already begun reviewing some possible ways to address the concern about long bus rides but will continue to seek creative solutions. We welcome your input, so if you have an ‘outside the box’ idea or even a tried-and-true idea, please share it with us!
Below are some of the ideas that have already been suggested. (Please note that these are only some possible options that have been mentioned for consideration.)
A8: There is not yet a layout or blueprint of what the new school will look like. The School Board is currently in the process of selecting an architecture and engineering (A & E) firm. The A&E firm that has been selected is the Atlanta office of Perkins+Will partnering with the architecture firm Rife+Woods based in Roanoke, Virginia. The lead architects have already met for the first visioning session with a large group of key stakeholders, students, teachers, and administrative staff from the high schools. Additional meetings will be held in January. These meetings provide the architects with a stronger sense of the needs of the population the buildings will serve.
A9: Yes, there will be many opportunities for all stakeholders: staff, students, parents, and community to have input on the features of the new school. One of the first things that will be planned when the A & E firm is selected is to schedule meetings to discuss the educational programming for the new high school and new middle school. During these meetings, we will discuss what 21st century skills are required for our students to be successful and how we can provide these skills and experiences to our students. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to share with the architects what their vision of learning and instruction will look like at the new facility for our students: What will the learning spaces look like? What about flexibility of classrooms? What will be the role of the media center? What courses and offerings will be offered? What is the role of a Fine Arts Wing? What about the auditorium? What are the most effective ways to teach in modern Science Labs? What does the research say about the most effective instructional strategies such as a 9th Grade Academy? How will CTE/Career courses be integrated in new facility? These are just a few of the many questions we will consider as we plan the new schools.
Since Dickenson County does not have a middle school, we will spend time discussing the advantages of a middle school and middle school programming while providing for the academic and social needs of middle school students. With the architects and stakeholders, we will plan meetings to discuss what learning and instruction will look in a 21st century middle school.
Q10: I do understand that Sandlick Elem, the buildings at Haysi high school, Ervinton High School and Clinchco Elem (if the ring wall is not built and consolidated with sandlick) will demolished. What will happen to the main buildings at Haysi and Clintwood High School?What will become of the old high schools? Will they be torn down? If not there is no need to consolidate. The county can’t afford to keep them up.
A10: You are correct that Sandlick Elementary, the buildings at Haysi High School, Ervinton High School, and Clinchco Elementary will have to be demolished. The main building at Haysi and Clintwood High School will be returned to the County.
A11: Perhaps the best way to answer this question is with a visual representation. Click here to view a map showing the approximate geographic center side-by-side with the approximate Rose Ridge site. You will notice that the points are actually quite close. The approximate distance between the 2 points is about 5 miles in driving distance and much less, approximately 2 miles, as 'the crow flies'. Perhaps even more importantly, the Rose Ridge site is very close to the population center of the county as well.
A12: The first choice for the school location was Bise Ridge. As we moved forward, we did title work on the Bise Ridge site which revealed that the owners of the coal had broad rights which included the ability to damage surface structures without being responsible for those damages. The coal owners were not willing to release those rights. Neither Rural Development nor the Corps of Engineers would lend money without a release of those mining rights.
As a result, we were forced to go to our #2 site, the Rose Ridge property. Unlike the Bise Ridge property, the Rose Ridge property has a right of subjacent support, meaning that the mineral owner must leave sufficient coal in place so that the surface structures will not be damaged. We are currently working with coal owners to have them sign a recordable instrument that will state that future mining will be conducted in a manner that avoids damage to any new school facilities.
The only interest the School System has ever had in coal is to be sure that future mining does not damage our schools. We have no interest in acquiring mineral property or in any way becoming involved in the development of coal.
A13: A middle school is specifically designed to meet the needs and interests of students at this age in ways that neither the high school nor the elementary school is. The middle school’s structure supports students’ social and academic transition between elementary and high school. Our current K-7/K-8 structure limits our curriculum and our ability to schedule to meet the unique needs of middle school students. While we believe that our schools currently do an excellent job, we also believe that restructuring to a middle school will improve the quality of the educational experience to insure success for all of our children. In the current K-7/K-8 structure, with staff and facilities shared among all 8 or 9 grade levels at the school, instruction in content areas such as music, art, and physical education and health is significantly limited. We have expanded curriculum opportunities for students in the middle school grades, including keyboarding and band, by sharing teachers among schools, but we have been unable to fully meet the Virginia Standards of Quality in certain key areas including foreign language and algebra I. Beginning last year we added algebra I as a high school credit but only at 3 of our schools, with 2 schools sharing one teacher. Using shared teachers, last year we also offered 8th grade students a foreign language exploratory (not the high school credit required by the Standards of Quality), but we do not have the staffing at the high schools this year to continue that program. Sharing teachers among multiple schools is not ideal for students or teachers and challenges the high school and the elementary school schedules to accommodate it. The plan to locate the middle school adjacent to the comprehensive high school with its career/technical wing will provide students increased access to a wide range of academic and career exploration options in the structured and supported setting of a middle school. Middle school provides a setting designed specifically to support the needs of students at this pivotal stage of their academic, physical, and emotional development.
A14: The facilities at Clintwood High School occupy about 18-19 acres of land. The proposed school project will consist of a high school, middle school, and a career center together with sports facilities, access roads, and adequate parking.
Approximately 150 acres has been identified as potentially being impacted by the school project. Impacts could range from facility construction to various easements for water, sewer, electricity, communications, and road widening. After the architectural/engineering firm has had an opportunity to evaluate our needs, we will have a much better idea of the amount of land that will have to be acquired for the actual construction and the land that will be impacted by other things such as water, sewer, power lines, or road widening.
A15: The Dickenson County School Board was updated on these four topics related to the new schools:
(1) Negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers/Alternative Plan: The draft of the 2nd agreement with the Corps has been completed and received. Negotiations with the Army Corps of Engineers remain very positive and ongoing. With the appropriate documentation of need for the school system in the relocation of the schools in the floodplain, the estimated cost of $101,973,000.00 may increase.
Q16: Are there any plans to move the cemetery on Rose Ridge when the schools are built?
Q17: Will local citizens be presented with the opportunity to be employed by the new school construction company or will all workers be brought in from other areas? This is in response to question # 15 item #4.
A17: As many local citizens who desire the opportunity to be employed by the new school construction projects can and will be employed. M. B. Kahn, the construction management company working with the School Board, projects that as many as 250 workers will be working in these construction projects in the next 3 - 5 years. While many of the workers may reside locally, it is also projected that some of employees may come from other regions in Virginia and surrounding states to achieve the necessary number of employees needed.
Q18: Is it possible to save the gym at Sandlick after the consolidation process? It would be great to be able to use it as a community center.
A19: Yes! We have added lead architect Barbara Crum's presentation here. It is a very large presentation with many graphics and pictures, so to facilitate the viewing, we have split the presentation into 11 sequential parts. The average length of each part is 17 pages but still large files that may take quite a while to download depending on your computer's connection speed. Click on the links below to view the presentation. In addition to the divisions, for your convenience we have also provided some topics covered in each part.