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Q&A with school board candidates

KILMARNOCK—The Rappahannock Record is conducting written interviews with candidates in contested races for local offices in the November 2 election. The Northumberland County School Board District 2 candidates—Cheryl Davis and Carl Perez—were asked the same three questions. Their responses are presented in alphabetical order.

All schools, particularly the middle and high school, are seeing lower enrollment numbers than years past. Do you have any ideas on how to bring up those numbers?

Davis: As confirmed by data on the school board website, our school system lost a net of 47 students last year despite allowing students to transfer in from other counties on a tuition-free basis. Due to the state reimbursement system, this means the county generally loses substantial money on every transfer-in if the student’s parents do not pay real estate taxes in Northumberland. This problem must be addressed as a priority.

Although there was a loss of high school students for the 2021-22 year, there was a gain of elementary and middle school students for the coming year. But, as the school system apparently does not conduct the equivalent of “exit interviews” with pupils or parents to determine the reasons for the departures—such as moving from the area, home schooling, early graduation private education—the question of this serious problem begs to be answered. In the long run, the only way to address this decline is to return the schools to the levels of excellence seen in earlier years while compensating the county for differentials on transfer costs.

Perez: Enrollment is slightly lower than the last two years, however that should be expected. Within the last two years we have seen significant information that has been passed back and forth from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health which causes trepidation and hesitation. As a parent, my family and I made the choice to keep our children virtual last year. This was mainly decided due to our health history, and figuring out which plan of action to take.

However, this year it is different. We have had two years to wrap our heads around what a new normal looks like. I believe we have a great plan in place which is moving forward. This plan will show parents as we move forward to trust we are doing the best for their children. In the beginning of this school year there was uncertainty on how a typical school day would look. It was hard to receive the positive case phone calls and see how many students were placed in quarantine. Yet as the dashboard was being set up and information began to come out, it became less daunting.

I believe in time it all falls down to trust. Can I trust my child will be placed in a safe environment with mitigation strategies being practiced? We are seeing more parents answer that question as our attendance and enrollment begin to rise. 

What do you believe should be the top priority….

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