January 2021 Board Meeting

School Board Begins Year with COVID Updates and Planning
Posted on 01/08/2021
This is the image for the news article titled School Board Begins Year with COVID Updates and PlanningSchool Board Chair Steve Vantrease scheduled long range planning with school board members assembled at the Weakley County Board of Education and online during the first of the board meetings of 2021. They also affirmed Daniel Harris as a volunteer football coach at Martin Middle and approved revised and new policies.

Board members unanimously agreed to the revision of a policy on naming new facilities which removed the requirement that the honoree be deceased. They also established a new policy, mandated by the federal government, which formalizes actions already in place as schools address the needs of students in foster care.

“The policy is the same procedure we have always followed,” explained Betsi Foster, the staff member assigned to writing and updating policies and procedures. “We have an almost identical one for students who are homeless. The emphasis is on trying to keep kids in their school of origin.”

Also on the agenda was a resolution on budget amendments for ESSER funds created by the federal CARES Act to mitigate the costs to schools associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Notably, the line items for certified and noncertified substitute teachers required an additional $22,550.

As part of the report from Director Randy Frazier, board members received word that the after school programs as established in Greenfield, Martin and Dresden are all currently losing money due to lack of attendance.

“We try to at least break even on these programs,” noted Frazier. “I want the board to be aware so that we aren’t caught off guard at the end of the year.”

Frazier also mentioned the special legislative session called by Governor Bill Lee beginning January 19. Reports received by the director indicate the topics to be addressed are funding and the Basic Education Program (BEP), teacher pay, accountability measures such as holding schools harmless for test scores, early literacy and addressing learning loss.

Frazier said he was looking for clear direction on the newly announced ESSER 2.0 federal funding for emergency stability during the pandemic. The anticipated funds could be up to four times what was initially received. The monies can be used to address previous items such as safety and technology but will also be available for funding approaches to deal with learning loss and stability with an emphasis on facilities. The director plans on conducting staff discussions next week -- including representation from schools -- regarding possible use of the funds. (Later in the evening, Frazier was notified by email the ESSR 2.0 allotment totals $3,871,148.)

In other COVID-related news, Frazier reported crowd control at athletic events during the pandemic continues to be a priority. Each school has evaluated how to best space seats according to their facilities. Later this year, he said he will ask principals to report financial losses.

He noted that while schools closed for winter break having experienced a week of mounting quarantine and isolation absences, classes resumed with a significant decline from the high of 387 on Dec. 17. As of January 7, 128 students and staff were absent due to COVID.

Though the distribution of vaccinations does prioritize educators, Frazier said, the overload at Weakley County Health Department and the lack of vaccinations available have meant that teachers and administrators are on a waiting list. He said he is in talks with the health department about allowing the school system to vaccinate employees on school grounds with school-enlisted assistance.

At the close of the meeting, board members viewed the recently produced public service announcement stressing public safety and observance of COVID-19 precautions such as washing hands, staying at least six feet apart, and wearing masks.