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Originally published: 2013-07-10 11:11:25
Last modified: 2013-07-10 11:14:47

Schools deny Head Start request for classroom space

The Watauga County Board of Education denied a request Monday from the Head Start program for classroom space, with administrators saying no extra rooms would be available next year in any of the schools.

The Head Start program, which previously served 3- to 5-year-olds at the Western TLC Head Start Center in Zionville, announced in May that it would close the center and transition to home-based services.

Robin Willis, director of Intermountain Children's Services, which administers the Head Start program in Watauga, Avery, Yancey and Mitchell counties, said the decision was made due to an $85,810 budget cut and the condition of the rented building.

In June, Willis requested that the schools offer free classroom space for the program, as well as use of the playground and cafeteria, for 10 years.

Tamara Stamey, director of elementary education, told the board Monday that she had checked with the school principals that formerly had pre-K classes about space availability for one year.

"At this time, those principals have indicated to me that they don't have the space to do this," Stamey said, adding that they would search again if the board desired.

Vice Chairwoman Delora Hodges said that aside from the classroom space issue, she had concerns about the costs and liability of allowing Head Start to use the playground and cafeteria.

Board member Brenda Reese said she strongly supported pre-K programs, but didn't want classrooms to have to squeeze together to make room for Head Start.

"I'm concerned about the space issue for our school-aged kids," she said.

The board voted unanimously to deny the request.

Willis said Tuesday that she was still waiting to hear from the regional office about how Head Start would proceed next year.

"I've still got coals in the fire," Willis said. "Anybody that's got any ideas, we'd love to hear it."


Driver's education

Watauga County Schools will contract with the North Carolina Driving School to provide driver's education starting next year following the retirement of longtime driver's ed teacher Pam Maltba.

Human resources director Stephen Martin said the best fiscal option was to contract for the services, which would save the schools money on owning and maintaining vehicles.

Martin said the one-year contract will allow the schools to try the new method, which is currently used by about 30 districts across the state.

"It gives us an opportunity to see how this works, and if we're satisfied, move ahead," Martin said.


WHS credit recovery program to end

The board also received a first reading of policy changes that will eliminate the credit recovery program at Watauga High School.

The program allowed students who tallied more than eight absences in a course to make up some work outside school hours to avoid being denied credit for the course.

WHS Principal Marshall Gasperson said the program was effective at the beginning,  but that students were realizing they could miss a certain number of classes with relatively few repercussions.

The policy changes state that students who miss more than eight classes will fail the course. They may appeal the decision to a new principal-appointed attendance advisory committee. The committee will hold a hearing and will make a recommendation to the principal, who may decide whether to award course credit.

"We feel this is just a more rigorous way to approach it," Gasperson said.

The board will likely vote on the policy Aug. 12.


Other business

At the Monday meeting, the board also:

-- Approved school fees for the 2013-14 year equal to the prior year.
-- Voted to allow American Advantage to provide optional student accident insurance.
-- Approved a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Marine Corps to operate the JROTC program.
-- Approved an interim budget resolution and a Title I budget.
-- Agreed to work with The Children's Council to allow the agency to become the contract administrator for the N.C. Pre-K program next school year.
-- Received an update on facility projects, some of which have been delayed by rain.
-- Received appeals from numerous families who were previously denied transfer requests to Watauga County Schools.
-- Met in closed session to discuss personnel, student records and reportable offenses.