By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton schools Superintendent Eddie Lawrence announced Tuesday that students in grades six and 12 will be permitted to return to school in person four days a week starting Monday, April 12.
That means all Northampton elementary school students and seniors will have the option of a four-day school week following spring break, which is the week of April 5 for Northampton students.
Northampton schools have been gradually allowing additional grades back in classrooms four days a week since February, after the school division navigated through a post-winter break COVID-19 spike that temporarily closed school doors in both Northampton and Accomack counties.
School Board Vacancy
Lawrence also announced Tuesday that a school board member has resigned, and the board is looking for someone to fill the vacant position and finish the term that expires Dec. 31.
The Eastern Shore Post confirmed that the departing school board member was Randy Parks, who did not disclose the reason his his resignation.
Parks was a math teacher for Northampton County Public Schools for many years and served on its school board for roughly a decade.
The open seat is designated for a school board member who serves at large, meaning any qualified voter who lives in Northampton County is eligible.
Anyone interested in the position should send a letter of interest and his or her contact information to Clerk of the Board, Northampton County Public Schools, 7207 Young St., Machipongo, VA 23405, by April 22.
FY 2022 Budget
The Northampton school board adopted the fiscal year 2022 operating budget Tuesday night, totaling nearly $25 million.
“This is going to be an unprecedented year for teacher compensation … we’re taking a big stride this year to get to where we want to go,” said Chief Financial Officer Brook Thomas.
Northampton teachers will receive a raise of 2%, plus an additional 3% increase in anticipated Cost of Competing Adjustment or COCA funding, which would provide a total pay increase of 5%.
COCA is state funding that helps certain Virginia school divisions offer teachers competitive salaries. The fund was started for counties near Washington, D.C., but Gov. Ralph Northam included COCA funding for both Northampton and Accomack counties in the most recent state budget.
All eligible Northampton school employees also will receive an additional $40 a month for the cost of health insurance.
About half of that money will cover a 3.6% increase in health insurance rates, and the other half is money that will go back into the pockets of school employees, Thomas said.
The majority of the operating budget, 65%, funds student instruction. The next largest expense is school building operations and maintenance, 11% of the budget, followed by school administration, attendance, and health personnel, 8%; student transportation, 6%; school food services, 5%; and technology, 5%.
“Fifty percent of the people with COVID never know they had it,” said Lawrence, who was quoting a webinar he attended featuring Virginia State Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.
In response to possible asymptomatic spread of COVID-19, some Virginia K-12 public schools will participate in a pilot program this spring in which schools will perform their own rapid COVID-19 testing.
The practice likely will be mandatory starting in the fall, Lawrence said.
Each school will randomly give 10% of its student population the COVID-19 rapid test weekly (with parent permission), so “we might be able to identify people who potentially could be spreading it without knowing they had it,” Lawrence said.
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit schools last March, many Northampton school employees working “to adapt to a brave new world” were unable to take their vacation time, Lawrence said.
Unused vacation time that normally would have been converted to sick leave was rolled over into the current year, but much of it still hasn’t been used.
Administrative staff proposed giving school employees three options: use their vacation time, convert it to sick leave, or be paid for the unused vacation time; the school board approved the proposal.