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Weakley County School System Copes With COVID-19 Crisis

DRESDEN (April 2) — The Weakley County School Board met via the internet on Thursday, April 6, by utilizing a computer program called Zoom, to comply with social distancing guidelines.
As Thursday night’s virtual meeting of the Weakley County School Board got underway, Director of Schools Randy Frazier expressed his appreciation to the School Department staff in dealing with the current coronavirus health crisis.
“It’s been a very challenging process,” Frazier said. “I think it has unified our teaching staff in our communities a little better.”
He also reported on the progress of school personnel preparing and distributing school breakfasts and lunches to local children. Frazier commended the cafeteria workers, who have continued to prepare breakfast and lunch meals for the students to take home with them, as well as members of the school staff and community volunteers for handing out the meals. “When the smoke clears from this event, I plan on compensating them with a bonus package, for going above and beyond (their regular duties),” Frazier said.
Frazier noted the Weakley County School Department’s Central Office staff and teachers helped coordinate and develop ideas for instruction.
He mentioned that Communications Director Karen Campbell helped provide information via webcasts. Additionally, Frazier recognized Technology Coordinator Mark Maddox for his technical expertise in setting up the system utilized for meetings and other communications via the internet.
“I’ve tried to keep everyone as informed as possible with the webcast, because everything has been so fluid,” Frazier said. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents and staff.” He stated new information will be made available to the public as things change.
“When this closure first came upon us, and the federal government started talking about removing guidelines and restrictions from the schools, it started me thinking about what we need to do for Weakley County schools,” Frazier said.
“First of all, I think all of you will agree it’s important to continue paying all of our employees.” He added the money for their salaries and benefits are already in the budget, and it’s the right thing to do during the current crisis.
“When our schools closed, I thought about what our priorities are as a school system,” Frazier said. “For many of our children, the best meal they get each day is what they receive at school.” He stated the school system is feeding nearly 1,500 children daily. Frazier explained meals for Saturday and Sunday are distributed to the children on Friday.
“Now that we have our feeding underway, and that’s gone really well the first few weeks, our second issue is what we do instruction wise,” Frazier said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations among our staff and teachers, and we know what we do as far as educating our population is very important. But, at this time, it shouldn’t be the priority.” He noted learning will continue at home, either through technology or sending home packets and handouts. I got a lot of feedback from parents and guardians in our community who are very concerned. Either they don’t have the means or background to help their children. We didn’t want to increase the stress, so, we came up with what we thought was a very creative and thoughtful program to continue their education. We call it the Three-Forty Learning Engagement Program.
Frazer stated they looked at each grade span area pre-K, K-2, 3-5 and through high school, and came up with recommendations for learning activities including reading and language arts activities parents can do with their children at home. It also includes math and physical activities. “We printed handout and passed them out with their meals today; and we also posted it on our website,” Frazier said. “Nothing’s mandatory during this time. We can’t grade anything. But, we felt like it was a good start.”
He said, “For parents that have access to technology, we coordinated with all of our teachers and compiled a list of resources we currently use. We felt like we built a good platform for our parents to go to and find out what grade their child is in. We accessed a link with learning activities to allow them to engage in whatever interests them. We’ve already received positive feedback on that. So, we’ll monitor that program. We’ve asked our teachers to view what’s happening and make suggestions and upgrades.
Regarding the Weakley County School System’s priorities, Frazier stated feeding is number one, instruction two, and three is helping students and parents deal with the stress brought on by the coronavirus. He explained teletherapy is one of the methods being utilized to help families cope with the situation.
“As you can see, we’ve been pretty busy, and as of three o’clock this afternoon, the governor issued a stay-at-home order,” Frazier said. “This causes us, not really to change what we’re doing, but rethink how we’re doing things.”
He said the executive order issued by Gov. Bill Lee only allows essential businesses to remain open and prohibits everyone except essential personnel from leaving their homes. The exceptions to traveling outside the home includes such things as going to the grocery store, restaurant (drive-through or curb service only), pharmacy, doctor’s office, hospital or other necessary purposes.
Fortunately, school system personnel are considered essential employees. Because of the need to maintain social distancing, teachers are not asked to come to work. For those who do need to travel to and from their workplace, Frazier stated he is drafting a letter that will be emailed to local school system employees to show they work for the school system. They can carry it in their vehicles in case they are stopped.
In other business, board members approved a list of teachers eligible for tenure. Those teachers approved for tenure are: Dresden High School – Alison Page; Gleason School – Brittany Bargery and Steve Stigall; Martin Middle School – Samantha Vaughn; Martin Primary School – Brook Allen, Nicki Moore and Elisabeth Tompkins; and Sharon School – Steve Douglas.
In announcements, Chairman Vantrease extended sympathy to the family of Joan Crawford, who was a retired educator and former school board member.
Vantrease stated the next meeting of the Weakley County School Board is 5 p.m., Thursday, May 7.

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