DANVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — Danville Public Schools has been trying to find a way to fill dozens of open teacher positions, but the school board hopes that a new partnership will help turn that around.

The Danville School Board is turning to a third-party system that will help fill vacancies with substitute teachers while officials try to figure out ways to attract new teachers while keeping the current ones.

During a meeting on Thursday, July 14, board members discussed a 90-day pilot partnership between the district and Kelly Education Services, a substitute teacher staffing company. Officials say the deal may actually save the district money, but right now, it’s just a pilot program, so they’ll share the results later.

School officials hope these services will give full-time teachers some relief in order to create a more balanced workplace.

“We’re counting on Kelly Services helping us employ substitute teachers and provide them with the benefits and support so that our teachers can be treated professionally and be absent periodically and have those classes filled with great people,” said Danville Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Angela Hairston.

The school board says the service is successful in other nearby districts, resulting in high hopes that it will help with the hiring and retention struggles in Danville Public Schools.

Meanwhile, school officials tell WFXR News that Hairston also presented a capital projects update to the board Thursday evening, which includes $140 million in projects across the district using local, state, and federal funds, as well as revenue from the 1% sales tax.

Danville Public Schools provided the following descriptions of the capital improvement projects:

  • George Washington High School
    • Through a Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act (PPEA) agreement — funded by sales tax revenues — the renovations to George Washington High will include improvements to the Career & Technical Education building, the media center, gymnasium spaces, athletic fields classrooms, and technology infrastructure. For the estimated project, the school board approved a proposal from English Construction, Blair Construction, and RRMM Architects to start work for the detailed phase of these renovations.
  • G.L.H. Johnson Elementary School
  • J.M. Langston Campus
    • Using funds generated from the 1% sales tax, renovations to the John M. Langston Campus will allow for Galileo Magnet High School and central office staff to be moved to the campus, a STEM and Career Academy for students to use district-wide, and the gymnasium and auditorium to be available for community use. Dewberry was chosen in May for the provision of A & E Services for Improvements at the Langston campus.
  • GWHS Track
    • With construction beginning in March, the eight-lane, NCAA-certified George Washington High School Track and Field facility is expected to be complete in mid-October. Thanks to generous funds from Danville City Council, the city will have a facility for its track and field athletes to use for the first time in 20 years. The facility will be used by GW and Galileo track teams, as well as Averett University runners through a lease arrangement for the facility’s use and operation.
  • Langston Track
    • After being damaged in Tropical Storm Michael in 2018, Langston’s track was restored earlier this year through FEMA funds and is now as good as new, complete with the recent addition of painted lines and field lights . Field preparations, as well as the addition of seating and a restroom facility, will make this track and field ready for practices and games in the future.
  • I.W. Taylor Virtual Academy
    • Over the past year, the I.W. Taylor building has undergone improvements to accommodate the Virtual Academy and IT Student and Family Help Desk. The school received technology infrastructure upgrades and renovations to the solarium, as well as a new roof, through pandemic relief funds. In addition, cosmetic and technology upgrades throughout the building provided for meeting and office spaces.
  • O.T. Bonner Middle School
    • Using state and local funds, O.T. Bonner Middle School’s facilities have received a facelift over the past two months. More specifically, the gymnasium received a fresh coat of paint and new bleachers; the auditorium is in the middle of a complete overhaul, including fresh paint, new flooring and seating, and upgraded technology; all classrooms will receive a fresh coat of paint; and the rest of the building was also painted.
  • Forest Hills Elementary School
    • At Forest Hills, not only was the entire building painted, but a new auditorium roof was installed using local capital improvement dollars.

According to the district, the budget for all projects includes bonds to be repaid from sales tax revenue totaling $127 million, $8 million in ESSER funds, $5 million from state/local funds, and $1.5 million in grants.

“We are grateful to the Danville community for supporting the capital improvements of our schools by passing the one-percent sales tax referendum,” Hairston said. “These funds, combined with what we’ve received locally and at the state and national level, will allow us to truly change our school environments and will positively affect morale, student achievement, instruction, and safety.”

“As a board, we are excited to see capital improvement plans progress,” Danville School Board Chair Crystal Cobbs said. “All of our schools are in need of 21st Century upgrades, and we are looking forward to seeing those projects take shape over the next several years.”

Going forward, Danville Public Schools says plans for GW and Johnson will be refined, adding that public hearings will be held on proposals at the Aug. 4 school board meeting.

In addition, the district plans to hold community meetings in spring 2023 for Forest Hills, Woodberry Hills, and Park Avenue Elementary Schools, with architects selected for the projects later in the year. The needs of Schoolfield, Bonner, and Westwood will also be evaluated for future projects.

By November 2023, school officials say they will have a 10-year facilities plan covering renovation, maintenance, and new school construction.