BY DAVID FISHER
DRESDEN (August 6) — The Weakley County School Board took action on several important issues, during its in-person and virtual meeting held Thursday, August 6, including adjustments to the 2020-2021 budget necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Revised CARES ACT Budget
Director of Schools Randy Frazier presented a revised CARES Act budget reflecting changes made to accommodate students both in-school and those who chose virtual learning.
Frazier stated Weakley County Schools received extra money in the CARES Act budget to pay teachers for online training and other expenditures for educational materials.
A total of $939,040.76 is allocated for the CARES Act budget. This includes additional funds as follows:
∙ To pay the salaries of teachers to teach 100-percent virtual students;
∙ To provide educational assistants for extra duties, such as temperature checks and lunch supervision;
∙ 122 days of certified substitute teachers (pull teachers to work on building resources set for potential long-term closure);
∙ 172 days for non-certified substitutes (pull teachers to continue work on building resources sets for potential long-term closure);
∙ Instructional materials to build take-home toolboxes for grades K-5 and to supplement online instruction with take-home materials for grades 6-12;
∙ Laptops for students in grades 6-12;
∙ Additional funds for fringe benefits and stipends for compensatory services;
∙ Supplies and equipment for compensatory services;
∙ Stipends for teachers to be trained on Google Classroom;
∙ Training on instructional technology Google Classrooms and Schools PLP (an online educational ecosystem where all aspects of eLearning are inter-connected);
∙ Drivers for after-school, Saturday school or summer program for special-education students.
Computer Shortage, No Internet Service
Frazier said a shortage of computers could become a serious problem if the pandemic causes a complete closure of schools. He explained if this occurs, all classes would be held online and there might be an insufficient number of computers to provide those students without one at home. The school department has approximately 1,100 computers set aside for this purpose and ordered 2,000 more. However, because of trade embargos with China, which is a major supplier of computers, it may be November or later before the machines arrive.
Frazier stated students need to be surveyed to determine who has a computer at home. This will tell school officials how many machines are needed for those students without computers.
School Board member John Hatler said since the 2,000 computers ordered by the School System are not coming right away, the school department might be able to use computers available at local stores such as Wal-Mart. However, Mark Maddox, technology coordinator, said those computers are designed for in-home use and are not well suited for operating an educational platform. Also, they don’t last as long as the higher quality Lenovo brand computers currently in use.
Hatler asked if it is possible to purchase refurbished computers?
Frazier said the last time this was done, the refurbished computers only lasted one or two years before they had to be thrown away.
Maddox said the alternatives to Lenovo computers suggested, “are not the best use of taxpayers’ dollars.” Additionally, if a variety of computers are purchased, it would be highly problematic “to keep up and maintain them.”
Another possible problem is many students do not have Internet access. During previous meetings, the use of memory sticks loaded with lessons, or using hot spots for Internet access was discussed.
2020-2021 School Calendar
One of the top items for discussion was a revision of the 2020-2021 school calendar to take into account safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classes begin Monday, August 17.
The 2020-2021 school calendar will add instructional days that were previously breaks for students. The dates are September 4, which was a professional development day; December 17 and January 4, which were part of the Winter Break for students and May 19 and 20 at the end of the school year.
However, Fall and Spring Breaks are still tentative for students and staff. Those are set for October 12-16 and March 29-April 2.
The first five snow days will not be made up.
May 20, 2021, is the last day of school for students under the approved calendar.
However, the calendar is subject to change at any time, depending on the developing situation with the global health pandemic and other unforeseeable factors. For this reason, it will have to be reviewed at each board meeting for any necessary changes.
The board agreed After-School programs in Martin and Dresden are on hold for at least four weeks. The programs will be re-assessed at the next School Board meeting.
Sick Leave Policy for Teachers
School Board members discussed the Sick Leave Policy for teachers who are absent due to COVID-19. The board agreed to pay teachers who are quarantined without charging them sick days. Those teachers staying home when they are available to work won’t be paid.
John Hatler and Kim Longacre were appointed trustees to serve on the Sick Leave Committee.
The board agreed students who are enrolled in the Monitored Distance Education (MDE) program will not be allowed to participate in any extracurricular activities. (See article, “No Sports or Clubs for Weakley County Students Enrolling in Virtual Learning Classes” for more information regarding the restrictions on extra-curricular activities.)
School Course List
The Board unanimously approved this year’s school course list.
The board approved the following volunteer coaches: Kenneth Edwards for Martin Middle School’s football program; Jacob Sisk for Dresden High School’s football program; Shawn Spendlove for Westview High School’s girls’ soccer program; Mike Swaim and Randy Moore for Westview High School’s girls’ basketball program; Misty McGregor for Westview High School’s band; Chase Manley for Westview High School’s boys’ soccer program; Corbin Jordan for Westview High School’s boys’ basketball program and Tracey Bruff for Westview High School’s baseball program.
The Weakley County School Board will meet in-person and virtually in the Board of Education Conference Room September 3, beginning at 5 p.m.
BY DAVID FISHER