Columbia County's schools to grow but add few teachers

Even though Columbia County’s student population is expected to increase next year by roughly 400 students, only a few new teachers will be added.

School board members on Tuesday approved a plan to leave unchanged the number of noncertified staff – bus drivers, paraprofessionals and nutrition workers – and to add 14.91 certified positions.
The teacher numbers include fractions, explained Superintendent Charles Nagle, because some are existing teachers who pick up an extra class rather than another position being added, or a teacher who handles individual classes at different schools.

“That seems like a bookkeeper’s nightmare,” said District 4 School Board member Roxanne Whitaker.

“It means we’ve cut the budget to the marrow,” Nagle said, by shifting fractional duties to other staffers rather than adding full- or part-time positions despite the rising student population.

Also Tuesday, board members approved expenditures for items including:

• A three-year contract totalling $274,847 for routine replacement of air conditioning filters in all 31 schools and system offices.

• A three-year contract for $692,000 for school high-speed duplicating services, awarded to Simplified Office Systems – the existing contractor – despite being underbid by $17,000 by Duplicating Systems. The latter company used a different type of machine that didn’t fare as well in testing, Nagle said.

• Furniture purchases to outfit the new Columbia Middle and Evans Elementary schools, scheduled to open this fall. The total cost is $610,096. Surplus furniture from the existing schools will be moved to the new school, used to replace broken furniture at other schools or, in the case of Evans Elementary, stay with the old building for use by the alternative school.

• Replacement of 14 laptop and 274 desktop computers from Hewlett-Packard for $176,622.

The board cancelled its first regularly scheduled meeting for April because of spring break.

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