The Orange County Board of County Commissioners held a joint meeting with the Orange County Schools and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools boards of education on Tuesday. The BOCC listened to a presentation on a public school capital needs assessment and discussed budget concerns for CHCCS and OCS.
- Jessica Goodell, director of portfolio optimization at Woolpert Consulting, and David Sturtz, executive director of Cooperative Strategies, presented their assessment on the public schools and recommendations for the school boards. They said the biggest deficiency for CHCCS is its roofing, and OCS' biggest deficiency is its buildings' interior finishes, such as flooring and ceiling tiles.
- From a design standpoint, Sturtz said that middle schools and high schools in CHCCS are “bursting at the seams” and OCS is at full capacity for high schools and elementary schools.
- “You do not want to be plan to be 100 percent utilized, regardless of how you’re counting capacity,” Sturtz said. “You need some wiggle room to grow and flex as cohorts change over time.”
- Sturtz said the total five-year need for Orange County Schools is $201 million.
- Half of the elementary school classrooms, 25 percent of middle school classrooms and 20 percent of high school classrooms in OCS are undersized. In CHCCS, 40 percent of elementary school classrooms, 60 percent of middle school classrooms and 20 percent of high school classrooms are undersized.
- There is a pattern in CHCCS of small elementary schools having surplus capacity whereas standard elementary schools are underutilized, Sturtz said.
- “Let's look to replace them with one right-sized elementary school that's operationally efficient, that has all of the resources that you would want to help,” Sturtz said.
- He said there are no inexpensive remedies on the table according to the district portfolios.
- “You have a lot of facilities — $1.7 or $1.8 billion worth of facilities — with a significant amount of need," Sturtz said.
- Nyah Hamlett, CHCCS' superintendent, gave an update on graduation rates and test performance.
- Students graduated last year at a record 94.8 percent and there was a 71.1 percent passing rate on all state assessments — the highest in the Triangle.
- There has been an 11.1 percent increase in third grade reading for Black students and a 4 percent increase for Latino students.
- “Again, still a lot of work to be done, but we are seeing some bounce back and recoup from the unfinished learning that we know that our students experienced,” Hamlett said.
- George Griffin, the vice chair of the CHCCS Board of Education, presented an update on the district's budget and operations.
- “We spent our time and our money, if you will, on strategies to retain and attract the highest quality staff we could to support instruction that was received,” Griffin said.
- CHCCS also increased salaries for classified staff. The human resources department has been reorganized and some teachers, such as exceptional children’s teachers, now have a 2.5 percent supplemental increase in salary.
- André Richmond, the vice chair of the Orange County Board of Education, presented an update on the budget and operations for OCS.
- Orange County Schools had 22 teaching vacancies compared to 40 last school year.
- Bonnie Hauser, a board member of OCS, said the district has a $3.1 million fund balance — more than the county requires.
- “These rapid changes over the last few years have real impacts for our children and those serving them,” Richmond said. “In order to teach tomorrow's learners and ensure every Orange County School student’s success, resources are needed.”
- The BOCC's next meeting is on Oct. 3 at the Whitted Building in Hillsborough. CHCCS's next board meeting is a work session on Oct. 5 at 6 p.m., and OCS' next board meeting is on Oct. 9 at 6 p.m.