The Wythe County School Board will host the first of three town hall meetings Thursday to receive public input regarding capital improvement projects. During one of the meetings, the board also will solicit thoughts on next year’s budget.

The meetings will be held throughout the county. Thursday’s 6 p.m. meeting will be in the Fort Chiswell High School Auditorium. The second meeting will be Jan. 30 in the auditorium at George Wythe High School, during which capital improvements and the budget will be discussed. The final meeting on capital improvements will be held Feb. 6 in the Rural Retreat High School auditorium.

“The school board just wants to hear from folks,” said Wythe County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Jefferies. The renovation of GWHS will soon be complete and the board needs to determine what the next capital improvement project will be, he added.

The future of Scott Memorial Middle School and Spiller Elementary “are the elephants in the room and need to be addressed, for sure,” the superintendent said.

Over the years, talk about the two schools have included renovating the current schools, moving SMMS to the GWHS campus and moving Spiller to the Scott campus.

“We want to start prioritizing the next project,” Jefferies said. “We want public feedback. We can’t assume anything, especially using taxpayer dollars. We want to give the public the opportunity to express their opinions.”

The town halls follow a November survey sent to students, employees, parents and other members of the community regarding long range planning issues for the school system.

The survey asked participants these questions:

• Identify the greatest challenges facing WCPS over the next five years? The most popular answers were maintaining smaller class sizes, hiring and retaining high quality educators and capital improvements.

• What enhancements or additions to academic programs would you like to see WCPS implement? Dual enrollment classes; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and teacher preparation were the top answers.

• What are the essential skills and abilities that our students should master in order to be successful? The ability to organizer, prioritize and set goals; good communication skills and good citizenship traits were the top answers.

• What are the financial priorities for WCPS over the next five years? Most people said competitive salaries and benefits for educators and administrators, making sure students have up-to-date educational materials in the classroom and media center; and maintaining clean, safe and energy efficient buildings for students.

A total of 445 people responded to the survey, which was posted on social media and available at the schools. The majority of respondents were parents/guardians and school system employees.

Jefferies said the school system plans to distribute a second survey in the coming weeks to get more input from students.

To reach reporter Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com

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