The Baldwin County Board of Education announced the dates for its 2015-16 budget hearings this week. The board will hold the first of two meetings Aug. 13 at 5:30 p.m. in the auditorium in the Loxley Central Office. The second hearing will be Sept. 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the same location, with a special board meeting immediately following the hearing to vote on budget approval.

At a special called meeting Tuesday, the board also approved a pair of new district-wide middle school courses, public speaking and gifted explorations, which will not require additional teaching units or new textbooks. Materials for the gifted explorations elective course will be provided by the school system’s Gifted Education Department from state funds.

The gifted explorations course will offer students identified as “gifted” an interdisciplinary curriculum based on abstract thinking and problem solving skills. Topics of study could include economics and the stock market, the Junior Model United Nations program, environmental studies, culture studies, computer programming and coding, forensic science and independent study.

In the public speaking course, students at Spanish Fort Middle School will read and analyze famous speeches, learn how to communicate effectively and learn to give informative and persuasive speeches. The system expects approximately 150 students to take the course each year. The public speaking course will not require additional teaching units.

The board also approved a revision to the wage rates it pays employees for extra work in after school child care. These supplemental pay rates are applied when employees are required to work over and above their regular contract days, from the first day of summer vacation to the end of the nine-month school year.

The board approved a change from $23 to $23.50 per hour for 21st Century afterschool site managers, which are funded through a federal 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, and will pay the after school child care multi-site manager $23.50 per hour.