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Updates on budget, other projects… Elizabethton City School Board stays virtual for May meeting

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com      
Still under social distancing guidelines, the Elizabethton City School Board conducted its regularly scheduled May 2020 meeting via zoom on Tuesday evening with quite a bit of information being shared while approving the 2020-2021 Fiscal Year budget for the school system.
School Director Dr. Corey Gardenhour, participating in one of his final meetings with the board, gave several updates to the Board.
Dr. Gardenhour praised everyone for the work that has been done during the COVID-19 school Stay at Home initiative. He shared that the feeding program will end effective this week and will take the Memorial week off to allow workers to close out the 2019-2020 school year.
The feeder program will restart on June 1st and run through June 30th. Gardenhour also advised that foodservice employees will be paid $15 per hour for managers and $12 per hour for the other employees during the summer months.
Gardenhour also advised the board that the custodial staff that had previously traveled from school to school during the summer will change as each individual school will have its own custodian who will be working four ten-hour days during the summer.
Also, beginning on June 1st everyone will be full time to see how it goes as each employee will have their temperatures taken before beginning work.
Work on the COPS Grant project at Elizabethton High School is about 50 percent complete and when the work is completed to secure the doors and add new cameras, the project will then proceed to T.A. Dugger Junior High where the remaining grant will be applied.
There will be no inmate help available during the summer. The inmates complete several small projects around the schools.
Lastly, Gardenhour shared with the board that there has been limited information on how the state sees schools open in the fall of 2020.
“There are three scenarios that we have been working on,” said Gardenhour. “What does it look like normal, what does it look like as a hybrid, and what does it look like being online completely and what are the expectations.
“We are hopefully going to have a plan in place to move forward when that time comes.”
Gardnenhour thanked the board for being so cooperative with him during his time as the director. He said that hopes are that the June meeting can take place face to face while taking into consideration social distancing guidelines.
The first piece of business that the Board took on was the approval of the 2020-2021 fiscal budget which was approved unanimously.
The budget will be basically a carry-over budget from last year according to Gardenhour that will not have any raises in it but will have step increases for insurance and retirement.
Beth Wilson advised the board that the budget is a bare-bones budget and that more may be required to cut out of it depending on what happens as the new school year begins.
Another item of business was the approval of a contract with Frontier Health for the Elizabethton School System.
“This contract was put in place last year with part of the cost being paid through grant funds that are matched by the school system,” Gardenhour stated. “They have intervened in many situations throughout the past school year.”
The Board approved unanimously.
An exciting announcement came from Travis Thompson who helped put together an application for a Naval Cadet program at Elizabethton High School in 2019.
Thompson advised the board that he received confirmation back from the Department of the Navy for the National Cadet Program at the high school.
Mentors have already been assigned to help with the program being implemented at the school.
Participating in the program will count toward a Health and Wellness Credit with the ultimate goal of having students participate for all four years of their high school education.
With the program being new, all students will be allowed to participate including seniors.
“It’s an honor to be able to receive the blessing of the Navy to move forward,” Thompson said. “It’s a great fit for the community.”
The program would require funding in the budget to help make the program a reality with estimates for one instructor’s salary to be approximately
$50,000 per year with an additional $10-15K more on top of that to cover benefits and taxes.
Thompson advised the board that there is a 90-day period to respond back to the Department of the Navy as to when the program would start whether in Fall 2020, Spring 2021, or Fall 2021.
While some items could be donated from other local programs, there would still be the burden of providing uniforms to the students and other needs. Thompson said hopefully the community might also donate to help to get the program up and running.
Board member Grover May stated that he would like to take another look at options in the July board meeting. If the board does not respond back in the 90-day time frame, the program might not be offered to the school system again by the Department of the Navy.
Dr. Gardenhour reviewed the Sports Calendar with recommendations from the TSSAA including that sports like wrestling can only condition with no physical contact, swim teams can use the pool, and cheerleaders can do tryouts individually.
The main sticking point is no locker rooms can be used and all student-athletes must come to practice already dressed and cannot use the locker rooms. The dead period for summer sports runs from June 22 to July 5, 2020.
April tuition payments have been extended to June 30, 2020, after the Board voted unanimously to do so.
“Tuition payments have been successful,” Gardenhour commented. “People are getting back to work and this will give them time to make the April payment so that their position can be held.”
Finally, teachers who were eligible for tenure received a unanimous vote to be granted tenure by the Board.
There will be a special called meeting on Wednesday, May 27th at 6 pm on Zoom to address protocol for moving forward with the Superintendent search to replace Gardenhour.
The Board will have their regularly scheduled June meeting on Tuesday, June 16th at which time the new Superintendent will be introduced in preparation of beginning his/her duties on July 1, 2020, which starts a new calendar year for the school system.