School board discusses return to classrooms

Posted December 22, 2020 at 1:18 pm

Clinton County Board of Education held its final meeting of the year last Thursday, December 17, at the old Central Office building with all members present.

During the monthly superintendent’s report by Dr. Parson, he primarily discussed the COVID-19 situation and current vaccine that was announced earlier this month, and their effects on reopening schools to in-person instruction.

The local district has a Healthy Schools document in place and Parson noted the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has recently reduced the number of days to quarantine from two weeks down to 10 days or, in some cases, seven days with a negative test.

The superintendent noted that rapid testing, in which someone can find out their results the same day, would begin locally after the holidays. Prior to the assumed return to in-person instruction on January 5, the situation here in Clinton County would be reevaluated.

Parson believes that in-person instruction among students, especially with the local schools being able to ensure the six foot distancing recommendation, does not expedite the spread of COVID, but is concerned about the amount of staff who, as of last week, were quarantined, with some 31 district staff members being affected.

He continued that as of last week’s meeting, only 101 staff members–or about a third–had said they would be willing to take the vaccine, but surveys of staff would continue. Parson said he will take it.

According to Parson, the vaccine should be available to educators by late January or early February of next year.

The superintendent indicated that even if the county remained in the “red zone” at the proposed start of school in early January, the district would continue to utilize all current safety policies. “I feel like we can offer in-person classes safely…but the staff may be a problem,” Parson said.

He said plans are to come back to in-person instruction (for those who choose to do so) on January 5 and analyze the staff situation prior to that time.

Both Parson and board members concurred that the pandemic situation, despite the new vaccine, “will be with us the rest of the (school) year.”

The meeting opened with outgoing school board member Sue Irwin delivering the moment of inspiration. That was followed by the board and Superintendent Dr. Tim Parson presenting her a plaque of appreciation for her service as a board member.

Joe Montgomery, via teleconference, then gave the annual school district audit, which turned out to be a favorable “clean audit,” with no major problems of any type to note in the report of revenues in any account.

Montgomery highlighted the 89 page report, citing in many instances where the district actually had increases in revenues and surpluses in some areas, including that the district had $29 million in assets and over $282,000 in the general fund for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.

He also discussed the state’s pension system woes, but noted the local school boards did not have to directly pay back that retirement shortfall, but it remains an ongoing financial problem for school districts across the state.

Montgomery also noted the district, despite a year when classes were not in session much of the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, showed a net improvement of $146,000, adding the district had “no internal weaknesses” and received a “clean opinion” from auditors.

Katresa Collins Winningham, Library Media Specialist, then presented a presentation to the board about the work she and others are doing to improve each schools’ library, reporting on programs and work being conducted at each school.

Winningham, who has been working to get more books in each library, upgrade technology programs, etc., said her goal was to bring similarity across the district and the effort could use extra funding.

She also noted the high school library was currently in most need of new books.

Finance Director Mike Reeves gave the monthly finance report, saying the district had over $243,000 in the general fund and also praised Food Service Director Paulette Brinley and her staff for a terrific job of holding even in the food service program, despite the amount of time students had not been in school.

Reeves also reported the positive news that the county tax revenue collections this year were up from last year’s rates by about two percent.

He added that although SEEK funding had been cut by the state this year, it was made up by the revenues the district received from the CARES Act funding.

Finally, Reeves commended the entire school district staff for their hard work and gave them credit for the district receiving such a positive audit report for the past year, despite the shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

In other business, the board:

* Set the meeting date schedule for the 2021 calendar year.

*Approved the CDIP (Community District Improvement Plan).

* Approved the continuation of the Learning Plan (NTI days) for the 2020-21 school year.

*Approved consent items of previous meeting minutes, a leave of absence, subsequent disbursements and claims and bills.

The one-hour and 15 minute session was then adjourned.

The next regular board work session is scheduled for Thursday, January 14 ,and next regular business meeting for Monday, January 18, both at 5 p.m. at the old Central Office location on U.S. 127 Business North.