Schools to open Aug. 7
School system is putting in final plan
July 30, 2020
At the Escambia County (Ala.) Board of Education meeting last Thursday, School Superintendent John Knott updated board members on this year's opening of schools, what federal funds are available to help curve the spread of COVID-19 and how they are being spent with school bells ready to ring Aug. 7.
With three options of traditional, remote learning and virtual program for students to choose from for this coming school year, students who choose remote learning will be on a scheduled, placed platform with regular nine week reporting periods.
In the virtual option, teachers will monitor pace, provide support, feed back and keep them on that pace. At end of nine weeks, grades will be issued, just like traditional school.
“Virtual students are going to need help at home,” said Knott. “Parents are going to need to set up organization in their home, a structured environment and a support system. Our teachers will provide support and guidance, but it will take a partnership between home and school for students to be successful in the virtual program.”
Recently, Gov. Kay Ivey released federal funds for Alabama schools through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These funds will allow school staff and teachers the equipment and materials to teach students while observing health officials' recommended guidelines and practices in the classroom.
Knott said the funds are being released in two amounts. One is an education health and wellness grant of $418,810 to be used by the school system to purchase various Corona-related materials to provide health and safety for staff and students.
The second is an educational remote learning device grant program to help to provide more resources, such as devices to help with the remote learning plan in the amount of $598,301.
Knott said there are more funding areas in the works but there is still paperwork to do, including monies that will provide school buses with WiFi capability. Knott suggested they may park buses in particular rural areas during the day. He said the funds will help with support for bridges and gaps in student learning due to the mandated COVID-19 lockdown just three nine weeks' periods into the new year.
Some of the federal funds are mandated to be spent by Dec. 15, 2020, which has prompted Knott to ask U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne for more time in order to spend the money wisely.
“Getting supplies in right now is a huge problem, and everyone is experiencing the same problem,” said Knott.
Knott said that out of the 137 school systems in Alabama, 14 systems have chosen to go fully virtual for the first nine weeks of this coming school year.
He said that students taking technical programs will have to come and do some hands-on, depending on the particular program. Technical programs, like masonry, at Escambia Career Readiness Center (ECRC), require hands-on learning. According to ECRC's Todd Williamson, masonry is the only program that does not have a virtual component, although there are nine other technical programs offered virtually.
Knott recognized several school and administrative staff at the meeting, commending them on their hard work in helping the school system make a way for students to continue their education, no matter which of the three choices they choose.
“The overwhelmingly large number are going with a program offering like we are,” said Knott. “I know there is a lot of concern but we are getting as much feedback from parents and pediatricians and mental health that are concerned our kids need to be engaged. We are a social society. There are fears, concerns and there are dangers, but we are going to provide the best we can and then work through those. We have to make the best out of a bad situation and we have to provide the best we can as we move forward. That's what our whole goal is. That is the key foremost focus we have as we move back in.”
According to school CFO, Julie Madden, the balance as of June 2020 is $12.58 million, which is 3.98 months operating reserve.
Madden pointed out that there are federal program reimbursements to be made, such as Child Nutrition Program (CNP) funds. She said the CNP funds has been highly impacted by not having reimbursable meal revenue, due to COVID-19.
“We have had $2.7 million in allocations for Corona virus relief funds,” said Madden. “The first was $1.4 million and the last $1.3 million came in recently, through two fund sources. We have gotten back-to-back allocations on those. We're going to allocate this money as if that Dec. 15 deadline is set in stone.”
Madden said the school system has spent $275,000 of that particular money for 1,000 Chromebooks, (laptops or tablets running the Linux-based Chrome operating system), noting the CARES money can be used for other things because the deadline to spend it is by the end of FY 2022 (Oct. 1, 2022).
Madden said 520 gallons of hand sanitizer, no-touch thermometers, disinfecting wipes, face shields, disposable face masks, cloth face masks, clear barrier boards, gloves, brackets for 320 buckets for making disinfecting wipes, aerosol can disinfectant and 19 electro-static disinfectant sprayers, along with gowns and shoe covers, coming soon. Table-top partitions will come in for the schools for traditional learning this year.
“It has been extremely challenging,” said Madden. “We are doing business locally when possible, and online. Our goal was to do whatever we had to do to get whatever items we need to start school. We have spent $500,000 to get school started and we are still spending.”
She said they can start replenishing supplies after Oct. 1, 2020, which starts the new fiscal year.
Board member Coleman Wallace asked what would be the protocol if a student tests positive for COVID. Knott said the cleaning can be done at night or they may have to shut down for a day or two.
“It may depend on the situation is, where that student had access to, all those varying factors,” said Knott.
Madden said the funding can be used to contract a professional cleaning company and Knott said they have already spoken to several local cleaning companies.
In other business, the following recommended personnel changes were approved at the meeting. The changes are as follows:
Marci Anna Pouncey, elementary teacher at Rachel Patterson Elementary School, effective July 13, 2020; Natalie Pitts, elementary teacher at WS Neal Middle School, effective September 8, 2020
Emma Grandison, 7-hour custodian at WS Neal High School, effective September 1, 2020
Angela Davis, teacher (Collaboration Lab) at Escambia County Middle School, to elementary teacher at Rachel Patterson Elementary School, effective Aug. 3, 2020 (Replacing Shannon Martin); Amy Dullard, English/language arts teacher at Pollard McCall Junior High School, to English/language arts teacher at Flomaton High School, effective Aug. 3, 2020 (Replacing Danielle Wallace)
Priscilla Garror, English/language arts teacher at Escambia County High School, effective Aug. 3, 2020 (Replacing Tiffany Oliver); Dishista Brown, 7-hour lunchroom worker at Rachel Patterson Elementary School, effective August 4, 2020 (Replacing Shirley Longmire); Anthony Wald, elementary teacher at WS Neal Middle School, effective Aug. 3, 2020 (Class Size Reduction Unit for 2020-2021 School Year Only); Kristofer Worth, bus driver at Atmore Bus Shop, effective August 5, 2020 (Replacing Melvin Byrd); Junia Fischer, assistant principal at WS Neal High School, to work up to an additional 5 days, effective July 16, 2020 through July 22, 2020 (to be paid at her daily rate); Ashley Trawick, counselor at Escambia County High School, to work up to an additional 15 days, effective July 13, 2020 through July 31, 2020 (to be paid at her daily rate, funded with local donations); Connie Reeves, instructional technology resource teacher at Atmore Central Office, to work up to an additional 2 days, effective July 20, 2020 through July 24, 2020 (to be paid at her daily rate, to be paid with CARES Funding)
Ashley Mosley, special education/lead teacher (187 contract days) at Flomaton Elementary School, to assistant principal (202 contract days) at Flomaton High School, effective July 24, 2020 (replacing Sabrina Wilson); Yolonda Walters, science teacher (187 contract days) at Escambia County Alternative School, to assistant principal (202 contract days) at Escambia County Middle School, effective July 24, 2020 (replacing Toya McMillian); Sandra Reid, human resources supervisor at Brewton Central Office, to assistant superintendent at Brewton Central Office, effective July 27, 2020 (replacing Beth Drew)
Kathleeen Camp, elementary teacher at Huxford Elementary School, effective August 3, 2020 (replacing Lora Matheny); Sharyn Wilson, elementary teacher at Escambia County Middle School, effective Aug. 3, 2020 (replacing Leviticus Wilson)