Construction costs and food prices discussed during W-JCC School Board meeting

Staff writer

The Williamsburg-James City County School Board discussed ongoing school renovations being done under the Capital Improvement Plan, raised the price of breakfast and lunch, and took a few comments on race and demographics in the school division during its meeting Tuesday.

The main point of discussion was an overview of ongoing school renovation efforts being conducted under the Capital Improvement Plan, many of which have recently been completed.

While a couple of the projects went over budget — such as a school bus canopy at Stonehouse Elementary originally priced at $246,569 that ended up costing $345,199, even after the project was scaled back — many others ended up being completed under budget, often by tens of thousands of dollars.

These included electrical work done at Berkeley Middle School, which came in more than $100,000 under budget and masonry work at Clara Byrd Elementary that came in over $900,000 under budget, as well as more modest cost savings from projects like the ongoing entrance redesigns at several schools. All these savings are rolled back into other Capital Improvement Plan projects.

With several big-ticket items still in progress or in the planning stages — including a series of partial roof replacements and HVAC system upgrades at several Williamsburg schools — some board members wanted to stress that these projects being done economically and in a timely manner.

“We need to make sure whatever money we put aside for school repairs are being used properly and efficiently,” said School Board vice chairwoman Julie Hummel. “We also owe it to our students and staff to make sure some of these projects are done right and done quickly.”

The board also approved a modest increase to school meal prices ahead of the 2019-2020 school year. Labor costs have increased by 3.5% over the past year, and food prices have risen as well, meaning several divisions across the state have had to raise prices.

Though the state recommended an increase of 10 cents, the board chose instead to approve a five-cent increase to breakfast and lunch prices. The new lunch prices are $2.75 for elementary, $2.85 for middle and $3-$3.75 for high school. New breakfast prices are $1.40 for elementary, $1.50 for middle and $1.60 for high school.

During citizen comments, Susan Hildum, chair of the NAACP Education Committee, raised several concerns about minority representation in the division, and questionable academic standards for student-athletes in the division.

“All the principals and assistant principals at Lafayette High School this coming year will be white, which is surprising to have an all-white leadership at our most diverse high school, and I hope this is not a message the division wishes to convey,” Hildum said. “The W-JCC GPA requirement for student-athletes is 1.25, while most colleges require a 2.0, and we are concerned the division cares little about the performance of these students off the field and making sure they can get grades that can get them into college.”

Both points earned some comment and even some agreement from school board members.

“Diversity among our staff and faculty is always something we have to keep in mind, we need our teachers to reflect our students,” said James Beers. “As far as the student-athletes are concerned though, I agree that we should approach that minimum 2.0 GPA used by many of our colleges, so I certainly support that, and think we need to look into that in the future.”

The next meeting of the W-JCC School Board will be at 6:30 p.m Aug. 6 at the W-JCC Central Office on Ironbound Road.

Sean CW Korsgaard can be reached at 757-968-1529, by email, and on Twitter @SCWKorsgaard.

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