At its regular meeting on Monday, the Transylvania County Board of Education voted unanimously to approve grant applications of up to $50 million which, if approved, could be used to complete the project. Blocked bond construction.
The board must submit the application for the Needs-Based Public Schools Capital Fund (FNBFCP) by March 15. In addition, the grant application must be approved by the Council of Commissioners at its March 14 meeting. It will take until about mid-April before the school system knows if his application has been accepted, according to Gabrielle Frost, chief financial officer. There are two applications: one for Brevard High and one for Rosman High School.
The funds come from the North Carolina Education Lottery, which is designed to meet the critical needs of K-12 schools across the state.
Due to increased lottery revenue, $395 million is available for grants in the fiscal year 2021-22 award cycle.
“The grant requires a match of 0 to 35 percent from a county’s local government, based on property tax data,” Superintendent Jeff McDaris said. “The county manager is aware that the council is considering this, and depending on council action I will send them to the county manager. I will say there is no guarantee, of course, that you will get the total amount, but it doesn’t hurt to try, and you don’t know how much you’ll get until you try.
Board Vice Chairman Ron Kiviniemi asked McDaris if the grant award process was still based on a county’s tier designation, as it has in the past. Each NC county is placed in one of three tiers based on economic well-being. Transylvania County is in Level 3, the least distressed, along with 19 other counties, according to the state. How state grants are distributed may depend on what level a county is at.
McDaris said for those grants, the state has “opened it up more this time,” but that’s still not a guarantee that the school system will receive the funds.
McDaris said the county’s application, however, included information that made it more likely to receive the funds, such as the age of the high schools and the work needed to bring them up to standard.
Council chairwoman Tawny McCoy asked about part of the application which states that neither the local education agency (the council) nor the county “will invest funds in the construction of the project until until the review process is complete,” and if some of the $68 million bond money has since been spent, it would hurt the application.
Frost said, as far as she understands, as long as the construction project doesn’t actually start, all the necessary steps for redesigns, cost reassessments, etc., can be done and have no impact on the app.
Kiviniemi asked Frost whether “shovel-ready projects,” which are effectively shovel-ready, receive priority attention. Frost said officials she spoke to didn’t explicitly say yes, but it wasn’t ruled out.
“They didn’t come right up and say that — they were sort of dancing — but it looks like if you’re ready to go, they’ll give some sort of priority,” Frost said.
Board member Kimsey Jackson asked if the grant money could be spent on previously planned renovations to schools that have been delayed or stopped altogether for one reason or another. Frost said “we should be able to, yes.”
Also during the meeting, Kerry Putnam, Director of Career Technical Education (CTE) and Exceptional Services for Children in the School System, provided an update on the programs.
The CTE program, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, is “designed to contribute to students’ overall academic achievement, including basic skills, such as reading, writing, and math, as well as as their ability to work independently and as part of a team, think creatively, solve problems and use technology.
Putnam noted the significant increase in the number of students who participated in the CTE program this year compared to last year.
For 2020-2021, 2,123 students were on the program, while this school year, 2,465 are enrolled. In the 2017-2018 school year, however, 2,952 students were enrolled in the program.
The main reason for the decline, according to Putnam, was the change in the program’s class structure.
In previous years, completion of the program required a three-class course.
Then it changed to two classes, for unknown reasons, which left only a limited place for students and the subsequent decline in the total number.
Putnam said that as the program has been rebuilding and adding more courses and options, the number of students enrolled has also increased.
Putnam also spoke about receiving a $1,200 grant from the NC Farm Bureau to repair fences damaged during Tropical Storm Fred and highlighted the December trip to Kentucky that Brevard High School’s Future Farmers of America (FFA) took. performed to help communities damaged by tornadoes.
At the Mountain State Fair last September, Brevard High School (BHS) FFA also won multiple championships and class winners at the WNC Agricultural Center and NC State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. Rosman High School’s FFA program had a class winner and multiple middle and top-10 finishes.
Finally, Putnam mentioned a BHS alumnus, Shade Wilbanks, a 2020 graduate, who will receive her FFA National American diploma this year. The degree is “awarded to FFA members who have demonstrated the highest level of commitment to the FFA and their agricultural career in high school and who continue to be successful in college in an agriculture-related program,” said Putnam.
For outstanding services for children, Putnam mentioned the federal and state grants the program uses to support 560 students (about 16.5% of the student body) with disabilities.
According to Putnam, the council and other local agencies that receive these funds are reviewed every two years and an on-site review is conducted every five years.
The goal is to ensure higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, better reading and math scores, and fewer suspensions, among other things.
Prior to the start of the board meeting and during the public comment period, two speakers, Chris Wiener and Jami Reese, registered.
Wiener said it was “good” that COVID-19 concerns seemed “to be on the back burner” and other issues could be focused.
Wiener suggested there seemed to be a lack of focus on infrastructure investment at Brevard High, particularly the CTE and Arts departments.
Specifically, Wiener was concerned that in the final architectural drawings of the proposed renovations, the CTE section of the school had been completely removed and the arts department was in danger of being severely damaged.
Reese emphasized the duty of the board to the students and all decisions made by the board had to respect state and federal constitutions.
During the meeting, plaques were also presented to recognize BHS Senior Knox Witherspoon and BHS Junior Lucy Murray, who both won 2A state titles in cross country; and the BHS Boys Cross Country Team, which won the team title. Team members Townsend Dierauf, Abdi Green, Eli Snowden and Noah McLauchlin were also in attendance.
Four teachers have also recently been certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: Caroline Morrison and Andrew Lindsey, of BHS; Kristi Clark, from Pisgah Forest Primary School; and Maggie McLauchlin of Brevard Elementary School.