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Chesterfield School Board approves Juneteenth observation, operating and capital budgets
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Chesterfield School Board approves Juneteenth observation, operating and capital budgets

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Merv Daugherty, superintendent of Chesterfield County Public Schools, visited Old Hundred Elementary in September 2019.

The Chesterfield County School Board on Tuesday approved multimillion operating and capital budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1 as well as the observation of Juneteenth.

The School Board unanimously approved a $761.3 million operating budget and a $427.4 million capital improvement plan that spans the next four fiscal years.

The approved operating budget focuses on correcting years of underpaying teachers and represents a $57.6 million increase from the current budget, thanks to additional state funding.

Chesterfield Schools will observe Juneteenth on June 18 as a school holiday for both students and employees. Originally, it was scheduled as the last day of school. The district will now end its year on Thursday, June 17.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when Texas belatedly proclaimed all enslaved people were freed, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Last June, Gov. Ralph Northam called for Juneteenth to be a paid state holiday as momentum gained to declare it a federal holiday, in response to last summer’s protests for racial justice.

The School Board unanimously approved the measure. Juneteenth falls on a Saturday this year, and the school district practices observing legal holidays on the Friday before.

“Juneteenth is a day that marked a turning point in the nation’s moral compass, but it’s also a reminder of America’s worst sin. I hope students and others will use a calendar day to advance their knowledge of Civil War history, and African American history,” said Jason Melendez, a junior at James River High, during public comment.

Sonia Smith, president of the Chesterfield Education Association, thanked the school board ahead of the vote for “being forward thinking.”

“It is my hope that CCPS employees, as well as citizens of this county, take the time to look up the history of Juneteenth and why it is indeed significant for all Americans to celebrate, not just for people who look like me,” Smith said.

As of Tuesday night, both Richmond and Henrico County public schools have June 18 marked as the last day of school. Hanover County Public Schools’ last day for students is June 17, and June 18 is a faculty workday.

The $761.3 million budget includes addressing the longstanding issue of school employee salary compression — to revert years of underpaying veteran employees, with only a slight pay difference between longtime employees and new hires.

The district is set to spend about $52.2 million, an additional $5.5 million from a consulting firm’s recommendation, over the next three years to eliminate the pay discrepancies for about 5,600 teachers, student support services staff, school-based administrators, and paraprofessionals. Beginning July 1, the school system will spend $30.7 million in the first year of the three-year plan to begin addressing compression and provide a 2% raise for remaining school employees.

Chesterfield will spend the additional $5.5 million total because the district did not begin to address salary compression in the current fiscal year.

The School Board also approved plans to spend $22.8 million federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funds on summer school, personal protective equipment, touchless toilets, sinks and light switches, air quality maintenance, technology and police overtime for traffic control for daily student drop off and pick up.

Also on Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a five-day return for next fall, with two virtual options for families not wishing to return to face-to-face learning. High schoolers can enroll in an existing online course program, and kindergarten through eighth grade will have a virtual academy.

At the tail end of Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent Merv Daugherty announced the district’s plans to have in-person graduations at high school football stadiums next month.

jnocera@timesdispatch.com Twitter: @jessmnocera

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