School board votes to create high-tech meeting, employee training center

  • The Beaufort County Board of Education voted Saturday to renovate a portion of the old Battery Creek High School to create a space for employee training and board meetings.
  • The project in the Mink Point Boulevard building, now home of the central school district office, will include technology for videoconferencing so meetings and training sessions can streamed live online.

    The board began discussions of building a new meeting room in July. It decided Saturday to instead call the project a district training center, saying the room frequently would be used by staff.

    "What we're really talking about is a videoconferencing and training center that happens to have a dais at one end of the room," board vice chairman Bob Arundell said.

    The budget for the renovation is $425,000. The district would borrow to pay for it as part of its capital renewal program. The money would not come from the general operating budget.

    The project was approved on a 9-0 vote, with board member Joan Deery absent and board member Michael Rivers abstaining.

    The school board now holds its regular meetings in the Beaufort County Council Chambers and will continue to do so, chairman Fred Washington Jr. said. The council chambers has the technology to broadcast meetings live on television, something district staff said would be too expensive to replicate in its own meeting room.

    However, the board only has the county space on the first and third Tuesday of each month and those regular meetings are the only ones televised. Special meetings, committee meetings and weekend work sessions held at other locations aren't broadcast.

    Board members said they wanted the capability to show those meetings online to increase transparency.

    Superintendent Valerie Truesdale said the technology in the new space will allow employees throughout the district to receive some training via videoconferencing, allowing them to avoid some trips to the central office in Beaufort.

    Board member George Wilson said that is important for teachers and administrators who are already busy.

    "It will save a substantial amount of travel time and wasted human resources from people moving back and forth," he said.

    Chris Poe, the district's facilities officer, said design work on the center will begin soon. The project could be completed as early as next spring, he said.

    The training center was one of two capital improvement projects approved by the board at its fall work session Saturday.

    The board also voted to spend about $2 million to renovate current Battery Creek High School.

    Much of the renovations support changes to instructional programs at the school next fall.

    The board voted Friday to divide Battery Creek into three units: an Academy of Military Science and Leadership Development; an Academy of Information Technology and Engineering; and an Academy of Arts and Humanities. High school students living outside the school's attendance zone would be allowed to transfer to the specialty programs, which would include an emphasis on aerospace science.

    Renovations include upgrades to the auditorium, student commons, restrooms and several labs. It also includes a $75,000 upgrade to the school's wrestling room.

    That upgrade means the district will no longer need to build a new wrestling facility at the school, a project voters approved in the 2008 referendum, said Phyllis White, the district's operational services chief.

    The referendum allocated more than $800,000 for that addition, she said.