Hanover County is no longer part of a regionwide math and science center.
The county School Board on Tuesday night approved a recommendation from Superintendent Michael Gill to remove funding from the MathScience Innovation Center, a Henrico County-based consortium that promotes science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education.
The board had no public debate before the unanimous vote. Gill called it a “difficult, yet needed” decision.
Gill’s original budget approved by the board in February did not include withdrawing from the center, but the school district is facing a $491,000 shortfall after state funding changes. The approved budget includes a 3 percent raise for district employees, more spots in a regional magnet school focused on computer science and the elimination of student lacrosse fees.
“It is anticipated that along with some attrition savings, the action of withdrawing from the MSiC will cover the lost funding without jeopardizing initiatives in the School Board’s adopted budget,” the administration said in making its recommendation to the board.
The center relies on funding from 11 Richmond-area school districts, but is at risk of a significant downsizing. The budgets approved by the Chesterfield County, Henrico County and Richmond school boards all strip funding from the center.
Chesterfield had already cut the bulk of its funding from the center, slashing its contribution from $1.2 million to $200,000 for this school year.
All four districts have said they will increase their STEM instruction internally rather than outsource that instruction to the center.
Last school year, 10,735 Hanover students were taught by MathScience Innovation Center staff members in their county classrooms. An additional 2,750 students traveled to the center to visit the 10 specially designed classrooms at the Hartman Street campus, formerly home to Central Gardens Elementary School. About 1,000 students received virtual instruction from the center’s teachers.
The center, which was established in 1966 with federal grant money by the superintendents of six local school districts so every student could have access to advanced math and science education, today serves more than 100,000 students in the region.
Hollee Freeman, the center’s executive director, called Hanover’s decision unfortunate and said: “We are acutely aware that the absence of the MSiC will have on students in the region and we are interested in learning more about the ways that school divisions will work to close the chasm that currently exists given the rising demands of STEM education.”