Frye Hall is the structure that houses the county's Alternative Education Center. School division administrators recommend a projected $1.4 million overhaul of the center. Ron Vicars, school division finance director, told the board Monday that most of the other buildings in the complex are in dire need of a makeover too, including the bus garage.
The Alternative Education Center serves roughly 100 special-needs students at any given time during the school year, and also serves students from Dickenson County and Norton. Vicars said the renovations estimate of $1.4 million is for that facility only, but the board needed to be informed of the deteriorating conditions of the other structures in the complex.
School board member Mark Hutchinson of Appalachia asked if Dickenson County and Norton had been approached about chipping in on proposed renovations to the Adult Education Center. Vicars said they had not, but Wise County administrators would make the pitch to the other two jurisdictions for possible financial assistance if the board so directs.
Board member Betty Cornett of Big Stone Gap wanted to know if the Adult Education Center/complex improvements might be folded into ongoing discussions to put together a funding plan to renovate the county's six high schools. Wise County School Superintendent Greg Killough said he would prefer to keep the two renovation proposals separate.
The school board already has two major construction projects moving forward. Twenty-year state Literary Loans for new gymnasiums and additional classrooms and other improvements for Powell Valley Primary and Coeburn Middle Schools are pending. The Wise County Board of Supervisors will vote Thursday on a resolution to approve a loan application of nearly $3.5 million for the Coeburn Middle School project and a separate resolution to approve a loan application of more than $4 million for the Powell Valley Primary School project.
Supervisors set aside $1 million last fall to keep those projects on the front burner after rescinding a move to fully fund them from the county's surplus pool. Supervisors had second thoughts about depleting the fund balance because of concerns that would have put the county in a potentially shaky fiscal situation.
Killough said if the Board of Supervisors approves the resolutions for the gym/classroom addition projects on Thursday, those projects might be put to bid before the end of the month.
In other matters, the school board unanimously reconfirmed Barry Nelson as chairman for this calendar year and Kyle Fletcher to serve again as co-chairman. Judy Clawson will continue to serve as school board clerk, Vicars as deputy clerk, and Scott Mullins as school division attorney.
After some debate during the annual reorganizational session, the school board will continue to hold two meetings a month, but both will be full voting meetings. Last year the board opted to make one of its monthly meetings a workshop (non-voting) session.
Cornett said the board's policies do not provide for workshop meetings. Former board Chairwoman Margaret Craft said workshops may have been useful last year but suggested both monthly meetings be used from now on as voting sessions, as was the case before last year.
Fletcher said just because the board's policy manual doesn't stipulate workshop meetings in its language doesn't mean the board was flouting the law at least once a month for all of last year.
"I'd like to make one statement," he said. "We've never been illegal."
Mullins later confirmed Fletcher's opinion. The school division attorney said because the board rarely if ever voted on anything during last year's workshop sessions, the issue boiled down to a minor change of semantics and intentions to keep the board on course with its policies.
In any event, both monthly meetings will be action sessions this year.