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Commonwealth's Counties

Virginia Board of Education Meets for Annual Retreat, Action on School Construction Related Items

From Tuesday April 23 to Thursday April 25, the Virginia Board of Education (VBOE) met for their annual retreat in Richmond. In addition to receiving briefings and taking action items such the approval of new Laboratory Schools, VBOE took action on two items of particular interests to local governments; first and final review of recommended grant awards for applications submitted to the School Construction Assistance Program for FY 2024 (item X) and first review of VBOE recommendations on establishing stands for school facilities pursuant to SB 1124. The former resulted in awards of approximately $84 million to more than a dozen localities. The latter resulted in Board discussion of the document and acceptance of it on first review.

The School Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) was created at the 2022 Special Session I of the General Assembly, which provided appropriations for the program in fiscal year 2023 of $400,000,000 from the general fund and $50,000,000 from the Literary Fund to be transferred into the School Construction Fund for the Board of Education (“Board”) to award grants on a competitive basis to local school boards meet certain conditions of need. Most of this funding was previously awarded, but the remaining balance from FY 2023 was obligated to be carried over and reappropriated for expenditure the following fiscal year. The Board considered and voted to slightly tweak the awards process to diversify and spread grant funding to projects across multiple localities.

As previously reported, VACo had been involved in the workgroup created following the enactment of SB 1124 to make recommendations to VBOE regarding potential Standards of Quality centered on school construction. The stakeholder workgroup established to inform development of the standards recommendations was guided by several principles, including:

  • School facilities standards should promote cost effective, healthy, safe, and secure learning environments that support high quality instructional delivery and student services;
  • Prioritize the most important elements as statewide standards; • Are actionable by school divisions, not cost prohibitive, and consider local cost impact;
  • Balance mandatory and “best practice” aspirational/optional standards; • Are phased-in over time or have delayed effective dates when deemed necessary; and,
  • Consider the existing VDOE school facilities guidelines as a baseline standard to help operationalize any new standards that may be adopted.

VACo representatives on the workgroup stressed the importance of preserving local flexibility and promoting best practices and guidelines over mandates. More background on this process can be found and the draft recommendations can be found here and here respectively. 

The full agenda and items discussed by VBOE may be accessed here.

VACo supports additional state resources and additional statewide funding options for localities for capital and school construction costs, including expanding dedicated local sales and use tax authority first given to select counties by the General Assembly in 2019 as well as continuing to fund the School Construction Grant Program and School Construction Assistance Program. Further work on these items awaits the reconvening of the General Assembly for the coming special legislative session on March 13th.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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