Tri-City Ledger -

By Gretchen McPherson
Ledger Staff 

Board gets OK on graduations

 

May 21, 2020



The Escambia County (Ala.) Board of Education approved several issues at its video conference meeting Thursday and heard updates from the School superintendent, including a revised protocol that allowed in-person graduation celebrations to take place.

Superintendent John Knott congratulated the 2019-2020 retirees, noting that the total combined years of teaching experience this year's retirees share is 523 years.

“I think that is the largest number of years I've ever read off,” said Knott. “I think, in large part, that has to do with some of our staff who have really dedicated a long time to education. We wish all of our retirees the very best.”

Knott congratulated the retirees and expressed regret that CDC guidelines did not allow a traditional celebration.

Crisis update

Knott gave information and updates from the Alabama State Department of Education outlining the plan he has discussed with principals to move forward in wrapping up this school year and getting ready for next year.

“All plans are tentative,” said Knott. “They are just developed to provide guidance. We will have to be flexible as new guidance and guidelines come down.”

In discussing the Escambia County schools academic continuity plan, Knott said that May 1 through June 5, the work has been geared toward bringing staff back to school in order to finish necessary items to finish school.

He said each principal had developed a schedule and that social distancing protocols are still in place.

“It is critical that we are able to finish up school requirements and be able to prepare getting ready for next year,” said Knott.

Knott said the schools will go to summer hours the first week in June, with a full normal schedule of work that week, depending on directives. Currently, students 13 years old and older will be allowed back to school in small groups of no more than 10, including teacher or coach. He said no children less than 12 years old can come on campus. Knott mentioned the importance of conditioning programs for the athletes, which is outlined in the plan in place.

After June 4, the plan is students 12 years and older can come back for math camps and reading camps, will focus on students who are in need or at risk. He said there will be grouping requirements.

Then in August, the full band and full athletics are in plans to come back.

“Even as we go into next year, we can expect still strict guidelines,” said Knott.

Knott said he was giving a rough overview of what plans will be developed in more detail in coming weeks.

The schools system's future finances are something to consider, according to Knott.

“The amount of impact of the virus on the Educational Trust Fund (ETF) is yet to be seen,” said Knott. “Income Tax and Sales tax revenues have experienced a big drop recently. It's expected to decrease next year too. Next year we may have a very tough budget to look at.”

Knott talked about the recent $1.25 billion bond issue, the largest in 14 years, that will address capital improvements. These funds can be used for renovations, new construction, and other improvements. Of the $1.25 billion, $426 million will be shared throughout state.

Advancement in technology funds, recently released, will be $245 million statewide with just over $1 million going to Escambia County. Knott pointed out that these funds can be used on safety, technology, updating safety, and things like upgrading the intercom systems throughout the county.

Knott said the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) funding, which was approved by Congress, will help take care of needs to prevent the spread of COVID, as well as preparation for another pandemic situation.

“We are going to have all be able to work together and do what we need to,” said Knott. “When it comes to funding, we are going to have a lot of work to do, a lot of things we have to consider to meet the needs with these funds in a short period of time.”

Child Nutrition Plan

More than 1,900 applications for students to get 10 breakfast and lunch meals delivered every two weeks have been received for the Child Nutrition Program.

“We hope that is going to be a big benefit to our students and their families and the community as a whole,” aid Knott. “It is a very good program and we are very proud that we were able to get that int place.”

Concern there may be a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall.

A pre-Kindergarten registration form is available on online through the school system's website and social media sites. Knott said ideally, parents will pre-register online and when students can return to school, the proper assessments can be performed.

Athletics

Knott said he and others have spoken with the Alabama High School Athletic Association and they are preparing webinars and trainings for principals for the future.

Knott reiterated how important training is for athletes and that whatever schedule is carried out it must take into consideration the period of time for conditioning and training of athletes to avoid injury.

“We are being proactive and reaching out, trying to formulate plans,” said Knott.

Graduation

W.S. Neal High School will hold its graduation Friday, May 29 at 8 p.m., Flomaton High School had its graduation Tuesday night and Escambia County High School will hold its graduation this Thursday, May 21 at 7 p.m.

“It is still important that we support and allow our students the opportunity to be celebrated,” said Knott. “I do want to make a decision that will provide for the safety of our students and their families.”

Knott said following many phone calls he made, the advice from health individuals calls for stringent guidelines for any in-person ceremony.

Each board member spoke and expressed their opinion in support of holding the in-person celebration on the school football field, with consideration for social distancing guidelines in place.

Financial

CEO Julie Madden reported an ending fund balance of $13.369 million with 4.19 months operating reserve. She said that summer maintenance projects county-wide have started, noting that extra expenditures, such as postage for instructional packets and other expenses, will be funded by CARES funds.

In other business, the board:

-Approved the 2020-2021 Student Code of Conduct.

-Approved Redemption's Promise Ministry Outreach Program for the 2020-21 school year.

-Heard a review of the monthly financial statement for April 2020 (All bank statements have been reconciled through April 30, 2020)

The next regular board meeting will be at 10 a.m., Thursday, June 18, at Brewton Central Office.

 
 

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