Wise schools keeping wary eye on Hurricane Florence

Stephen Igo • Sep 12, 2018 at 11:17 AM

WISE — Like everyone else across the Mid-Atlantic states, Wise County Public Schools is keeping a wary eye on the approaching Hurricane Florence. Currently a Category 4 storm, Florence is predicted to slam into the eastern seaboard, perhaps square into North Carolina, later this week with lingering effects across the northeastern U.S. into early next week.

During Tuesday’s Wise County School Board session, Superintendent Greg Mullins said state emergency and public education officials held a conference call with superintendents across Virginia on Tuesday, advising school divisions to hope for the best and brace for the worst.

Mullins noted that while Southwest Virginia is “somewhat protected here in the mountains,” early rainfall predictions for the area are currently in the 2-4 inch range, enough to cause flooding, although nothing like the catastrophic potential of upwards of two feet forecast in some parts of the central and eastern portions of North Carolina and Virginia.

Mullins said state and many local officials fear impacts from Florence could have the potential to throw the entire academic year out of whack for many school divisions.

“Potentially we could see some individuals make their way inland, depending on how it unfolds,” Mullins said, which might mean an influx of students into unaffected or lightly affected areas.

“We have a plan to serve folks from other areas” if the need arises, which everyone hopes won’t, Mullins said. “But we will help in any way we can any of our people,” he added.

In other matters, Mullins said the 10-day enrollment report clocked in at 5,515 students for the month-old 2018-19 school year, down 114 students from the same period last year and 60 fewer than the final enrollment count in March.

The silver lining is that the administration based the current fiscal year budget on an enrollment of 5,500. Mullins said as long as enrollment stays north of that level for the school year, the school division will remain on an even fiscal keel.

Mullins also reported the WCPS ranks fifth of 132 school divisions in the 2017-18 state Standards of Learning results, tabulated over the summer. Wise County ranked third the previous two years, but Mullins noted “the slimmest of margins” of a fraction of a percentage point typically separates the top five systems.

Wise County’s SOL performance has ranked in the top five in the state for five straight years. Mullins noted Region VII, which includes Wise County, was the best performing SOL region in the state, and Wise County was the highest performing school division in the region.

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