The school system will ask for an increase in the budget and more supplements for teachers

HAMLET — The Richmond County School Board has discussed requesting a $273,000 increase to its annual budget for the upcoming school year.

Among the needs identified for the proposed local budget for 2021-2022 are a 10% increase in supplements for teachers, a 2.3% increase in social benefits and a 3% increase in public services. Two technology positions, a facilitator and a technician, were also targeted, as well as a nursing position.

“We’ve been quite lucky over the past two years that we’ve been able to increase our teacher supplements,” said finance manager Tina Edmonds. “We like to keep our teachers – retention is key here.”

Edmonds said the additional positions were needed before COVID, but the pandemic has only increased the need.

The RCS currently pays 3.2% supplements to teachers, and the 10% increase would push the county to 3.52%.

The need for more tech technicians stems from a major increase in devices used by students, such as their desktop computers.

In 2010, RCS had about 3,500 devices. In 2020, it had 13,000 devices and this year the school system has about 16,000 devices. But throughout this sharp increase over 11 years, they have stagnated at five technicians. Per technician in 2010, there were 700 devices, each with their own potential problems and necessary fixes. In 2020, it was 2,600 devices per technician.

Many county students do not have a primary care doctor, and school nurses are sometimes the first to contact parents about treatment or concerns they have about students. The RCS has ten nurses in its schools, but during the pandemic nine part-time temporary nursing assistants worked in the schools. Nurses have worked 438 overtime hours since the pandemic until about last month, according to Edmonds.

The RCS school nurses are in charge of an average of 654 pupils. Anson and the county of Scotland are both lower.

Board member Ronald Tillman expressed his gratitude for all the extra work the school nurses were able to provide. Dr. Julian Carter, deputy superintendent of HR, said he heard examples of school nurses working with people for two or three extra hours on a Saturday.

RCS Superintendent Dr. Jeff Maples expressed optimism that employees will receive their vaccine soon, potentially next week. This would include teachers, bus drivers, and substitute teachers, among many other roles within the school.

Maples said he’s heard from students who are happy to be physically back in class, but said they can’t yet rush back to how schools operated before the pandemic. They must continue to operate under the COVID-19 safety protocols that are in place at the state level.

“We hope we can get many more students back in the coming weeks,” Maples said.

Maples said school system leadership will soon meet with county commissioners to discuss these proposals.

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Contact Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or [email protected]

Jeremy S. McLain