By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: April 2, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Over $1 million in a number of capital projects are planned to be tackled over the next few months after supervisors greenlit the transfer of Federal impact aid funding to the school division during their meeting in March.
In Mid-March, the Prince George Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the appropriation of $1,583,633, the entirety of the school division’s impact aid funding, into the countywide capital improvement plan fund, which will allow Prince George County Public Schools to move forward with nearly a dozen capital projects across the school division’s facilities and departments.
According to the United States Department of Education, since 1950, the Federal government has been providing financial assistance to local school districts through its Impact Aid program, which was crafted to “assist local school districts that have lost property tax revenue due to the presence of tax-exempt Federal property, or that have experienced increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, including children living on Indian lands.”
Even though the law, now known as Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, has been amended a number of times since its inception, the core tenets of the law remain, supporting school divisions who have concentrations of students who live on military bases, low-rent housing properties, Indian lands or other Federal properties, among others.
According to the latest data from the school division delivered during Superintendent Renee Williams’ budget presentation, as of this school year, PGCPS has a military enrollment student count of just over 1,800 students, making up nearly 30 percent of the division’s budgeted average daily membership of 6,150.
The funds, in the eyes of the Federal government, are considered “general aid” to school districts, meaning they can be used in whatever manner the receiving school division chooses in accordance with local and state requirements, with some opting to use them for various expenses like teacher salaries, textbooks, or educational programs, while others opt to use the funds in the same way Prince George County Public Schools plans to, for non-recurring capital expenditures.
According to county documents, the school division plans to use the funds for ten different projects, ranging from bus purchases to roof and parking lot repairs, and wireless needs.
Most of the $1.5 million will be spent at Harrison Elementary as part of a roof maintenance project that is expected to cost $655,000. The school division says in documents provided to the county that the “Cafeteria, Buildings A and D” need some form of work based on an evaluation by Monarch Consulting. Of those buildings, Building D’s roof work will cost the most at $380,000, while the cafeteria and Building A would cost $110,000 and $165,000 respectively.
The next biggest item on the school division’s list for the impact aid’s use would be in the realm of transportation as PGCPS plans to use $231,800 of those funds to purchase two special education buses, replacing two buses that are “at or [above] 200,000 miles.”
Improvements will be made to Prince George High School as the school division is planning to improve the school’s parking lot, using $125,000 to make repairs to the lot’s bus ramp area and main drop-off point at the front of the school. In addition, electrical work will be done inside the school’s locker room to replace fixtures and lighting for $33,000.
Moore Middle School has also been identified for needed capital improvements as PGCPS plans to utilize nearly $29,000 to make HVAC repairs at the school, along with a $158,849 replacement of a broken chiller and installation of a new unit.
In regards to projects that affect multiple schools, the school division will look to bolster its wireless infrastructure thanks to the funding by using over $120,000 of that money to “replace all … current access points” in the county’s schools and “add access points to chronic problem areas.”
“The amount of technology that is currently being used has grown tremendously,” Prince George County Public Schools Superintendent Renee Williams said in a memo to County Administrator Percy Ashcraft. “In 2011-12, we had 2,100 computers. That number grew to 3,400 in 2015-16. For the 2018-19 school year, we have 4,626 school-owned computers. That number does not include school-owned iPads, student and teacher cell phones, and other devices trying to hit access points,” adding, in some cases, nearly 80 devices are trying to use an access point designed to handle roughly 25 to 30 concurrent connections.
Along with that project, $50,400 has been earmarked for electrical switch gears at the high school, Clements Junior High, and North Elementary, $100,000 for a “security vestibule” to be installed at the high school, Clements, and Moore Middle, and $75,000 for a facility index study, which will be “a study of all facilities,” including “a facility condition assessment, an educational adequacy assessment, and an operations and maintenance review.”
As part of that study, the school division said “a ten-year plan with cost analysis will be developed,” which would be used as part of the budget and capital improvement process.
With the funding now available and in the countywide CIP, Williams said they will begin to tackle these projects systematically.
“Our staff will address the projects that can be completed in the shortest amount of time first,” she said “The more extensive projects involve procedures and processes that will take more time to reach completion. Planning for these projects has begun.”
She also thanked county leaders for their prompt action on the matter.
“We thank the Board of Supervisors for its quick action and for understanding that our capital improvement projects will benefit our students and staff,” Williams closed.