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Henrico School Board approves budget, votes to make Juneteenth a holiday
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Henrico School Board approves budget, votes to make Juneteenth a holiday

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Sara Black, a teacher at Glen Lea Elementary School in Henrico County, hugged a student goodbye on March 13.

The Henrico County School Board on Thursday voted to approve a $707.5 million spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that’s about 10% larger than the current year’s.

The board also green-lighted a request from the school administration to end the calendar year a day early so that students and teachers may observe Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the day Union forces arrived in Galveston, Texas, at the end of the Civil War in 1865, bringing with them news of the Emancipation Proclamation two years after Abraham Lincoln signed the executive order freeing enslaved people.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day in some communities, is normally celebrated on June 19, which falls on a Saturday this year. Henrico will close on Friday, making Thursday, June 17 the last day of the county’s school year.

Gov. Ralph Northam last year established Juneteenth as a permanent state holiday for all state executive branch agencies and institutions of higher education. The Henrico school division observed Juneteenth as a staff holiday on June 22 last year.

In addition to moving up the last day of school, the school division is also now planning for June 8 to be a virtual school day for all students and teachers to minimize disruptions to voting during the Democratic primary. A school division news release says 58 county school buildings will serve as polling locations.

The spending plan adopted by the board on Thursday is $42.3 million larger than the plan Superintendent Amy Cashwell originally proposed in January. The newly adopted plan is $65.2 million higher than the budget for the current fiscal year.

The adopted 2021-2022 budget now includes a 2.3% raise for all school employees starting in July and a “longevity” bonus for employees with more than 10 years experience in the school division that will go into effect in October. The increase for the bonus will range from 2.3% to 9.8%, depending on experience.

Andy Jenks, the school division’s spokesman, said school employees also received a 2% wage increase last month that was not originally included in budget plans for this year. He said the wage increases are based on the county government’s unified pay plan for all local government and school division employees.

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