The system has 4,000 students – 300 fewer than last year. Fewer students have meant less funding for the district.
“We’ve had cuts from the state and from the local governments already because of the recession,” Halifax County Schools spokesman Keith Hoggard said.
The school system is also repaying more than $1 million to the state in loans. The school system has admitted in the past to overspending.
The Halifax County Board of Commissioners advanced the school system nearly $780,000 last year from the general taxpayer fund to help the district make up for a payroll budget deficit and keep water and electricity running at schools.
Tight finances have forced the district to close three schools and consolidate.
“Pulling the kids out of school, transferring them to this school, when we do that we interrupt their time of learning,” said parent Lawanda Faulcon.
State education officials are working with teachers and school administrators in the county to boost student achievement.
More than 71 percent of the district's elementary school students aren't proficient in reading, and 74.3 percent of middle school students aren't proficient, according to state figures. At the high school level, about one-third of the students are considered proficient on end-of-course tests, compared with 68 percent statewide.
The performance prompted Superior Court Judge Howard Manning to call in March for a state takeover of the district, equating continued poor performance with "academic genocide." Manning has long overseen the academic performance of state schools after a ruling several years ago in a case that sought to get more state support for school districts in low-income and rural areas.
But school leaders say things are getting better.
“There are a lot of good things going on in Halifax County Schools, but the main people that are doing a lot of the talking are not here everyday in these classrooms when the teachers are rolling up their sleeves,” said Chastity Kinsey, an instructional coach at Aurelian Springs Elementary School.