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News from the Board -- February 2, 2021Posted by Jessica Wells on 2/3/2021 2:15:00 PM
The Onslow County Board of Education held its regular monthly meeting on February 2, 2021 at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. Agenda items for this meeting included a discussion of the redesign of Onslow Virtual School, a school construction update, and revisions to BOE Policy 2310.
Dr. Beth Folger, deputy superintendent, opened the general business of the meeting by giving the Board a brief overview of where Onslow Virtual School got its start and where she and her staff envisioned it going, moving forward. Dr. Folger compared OVS to an “emergency shelter,” built to cover at-risk students and families when the pandemic first began. Soon after opening, Dr. Folger said that OVS realized many more families had a need for a virtual learning option than the district had planned for. Though the school had an initial planned enrollment of 700 students, that number grew drastically to the current 4,700 student population. Having one school with 4,700 students and 200 staff members, Dr. Folger said, has presented the district with a number of logistical difficulties that have made the day-to-day operation of the school challenging.
Now that the pandemic dynamics have changed and we have more information, Dr. Folger said that the district anticipates having a smaller need for pandemic related virtual services going into the 2021-2022 school year. To make OVS more manageable for staff, and more effective for students, Dr. Folger and her staff recommended not a remodel, but a complete “rebuild” of the school. This rebuild would split the current OVS into two different schools, one for students grades K-5 and one for grades 6-12. The elementary school would have 600 students, and the secondary would have 1000. The schools would become “choice schools,” so families would enroll through a lottery process.
The Board unanimously approved Instructional Services’ plans for OVS and its request for a new school ID number.
Next on the agenda was a school construction update from OCS Chief of Operations Steve Myers and Randy Baker of Pinnacle Architecture. Baker shared with the Board photos of the construction progress at the new elementary school being built in the west central part of the county. He said that, despite COVID-19 and the inordinate amount of rain the region has received, the project is still on time and within budget, with a projected finish date of December 2021. Coastal Elementary School in the southern part of the county is also on time and within budget, with a finish date of May 2021.
As the update came to a close, Myers left the Board with a couple things to think about as the district looks to open the new school in the west central region in 2022-2023. He presented them with a redistricting timeline and things to consider, as well as a reminder that the school will need to be named in the coming months.
The meeting ended with a Board discussion on revisions to Policy 2310 on public participation at Board meetings. In the Board’s last meeting, members discussed ways that the policy which allows the public to address the BOE could be improved. In this month’s meeting, the Board unanimously approved changes to the policy that include calling the request to address the Board an “invitation,” consolidating the public comment periods into one section at the beginning of the meeting, and updating the language and rules to make the process easier and more accessible for the public.