December School Board Meeting Focuses on Health

Bethany Allen, director of Coordinated School Health, updated the board on the latest developments regarding current health related issues, including the impact COVID-19 is having on student learning.

BY KAREN CAMPBELL

Weakley County Schools

Communications Director

DRESDEN (December 3) — The last Weakley County Schools Board meeting for 2020 included a presentation on school health, consideration of two board policies, and discussion of upcoming travel.

On Thursday evening, board members gathered at the Board of Education and via online conferencing for their regularly scheduled meeting.

After viewing a brief video recapping the 2020 Weakley County Schools Spelling Bee held early in the day at Westview, Director Randy Frazier commended the winner, Luke Lawrence of Gleason.

School Board Chairman Steve Vantrease next called on Bethany Allen, director of Coordinated School Health. She updated the board on the latest developments regarding current health related issues, including the status of COVID-19 and how it is affecting learning. She also discussed the Weakley County School Backpack program and health screenings.

The meal provision program for those students who have been identified as needing supplemental meals for the weekend has been adjusted due to the pandemic. She said it is currently serving 160 students. She expressed appreciation to the Northwest TN Local Food Network and their work to provide sweet potatoes to the backpack recipients prior to Thanksgiving.

Due to COVID, health screenings are not part of the schedule as they have been in the past. However, upon request, screenings are provided.

Allen praised the work of the school nurses who are the frontline for COVID in the schools. She explained that the contact tracing for each reported case or exposure involves going into each area where the affected student was and measuring who was within the six-feet limit.

“I’m very thankful they are in the schools and they are able to handle that [additional responsibility],” noted Allen. She also offered praise to the transportation department for their conscientiousness on buses.

According to Allen, the number of positive cases requiring contact tracing September – November 2020 was 74. Of this number, 60 students and 14 staff members tested positive.

The total number quarantined during this time period, due to close contact, was 554.

Those quarantined, due to bus transportation totaled 84. A breakdown of bus riders testing positive or being quarantined is as follows:

  • Dresden = 5 cases, 42 quarantined
  • Martin = 2 cases, 20 quarantined
  • Greenfield = 2 cases, 22 quarantined

She reported that a total of 189 students and staff were absent on December 3 (the day of the board meeting) due to COVID-19 isolations or quarantines and noted that recent CDC guideline changes will now allow for those in quarantine to return to school sooner.

“We are watching numbers every day and trying to keep everyone as safe as possible,” she concluded.

Vantrease asked if any quarantines had uncovered a student who tested positive after having been placed in quarantine. Allen replied that there had been eight as of the last accounting period.

Both Frazier and Vantrease expressed appreciation to the schools for their continued caution and focus on safety.

In other business, the first readings of two policy matters were approved. One addressed timing-related changes to the existing policy on naming new facilities. The other was a policy drafted in accordance with a new state law regarding the enrollment, placement and transportation of students in foster care.

Regarding the naming of new school facilities, the revised policy eliminates the requirement that this honor should be considered only for people who are deceased.

The policy adds the wording, “If necessary, a time limit may be set on the duration of the period over which the naming is applicable. After that period of time (20 years, for example), the plaque may be removed and presented, with an appropriate ceremony, to the family of the person honored.”

The board also approved a brand new School Board Policy involving the enrollment, placement, and transportation of foster students.

The two policies will have their second readings during the January meeting.

During Frazier’s report he called board members’ attention to an email received regarding participation in a previously approved basketball tournament involving travel and overnight stay during the Christmas break. The email offered the stringent guidelines and protocols that have been adopted for the tournament including crowd and team limitations. Frazier said he wanted to keep the board informed of the safety steps in place. After a brief discussion, he was told to continue with prior guidance to allow for the request.

Vantrease stated the school board’s 5-year plan is going to be discussed at an upcoming committee meeting

He expressed his appreciation for everyone’s support of the countywide fiber optics.

In announcements, Chairman Vantrease extended sympathy to Brandy Speedlove over the death of her grandfather; Jason Kemp, whose father-in-law died; Tina Brown, whose father-in-law passed away; and the family of recently deceased Jack Porter, who was a former member of the Weakley County School Board.

Chairman Vantrease stated the next meeting of the Weakley County School Board is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 7, 2021, in the Weakley County Board of Education conference room.

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