BY IVAN SANDERS
Even though there were several pieces of business to be addressed at the regularly-scheduled July Elizabethton City School Board meeting, the number one topic still lends itself to how the schools will be addressing the continued rise in COVID-19 cases.
In the red at 19 to start the meeting, Director of Schools Richard VanHuss said that he has been in constant contact with other school directors in the region as well as the regional health department and Carter County Health Department to make sure the best decisions are made for students and teachers.
“The way I describe it is that we are building a plane while we are flying it. Its that kind of situation that we are in,” said Van Huss in regard to the issues and challenges presented by the pandemic.
“You look at the trend and we are going in the wrong direction. It changes every day and unless there are significant changes between now and then I would say that the start of in-person school as we designed would be in jeopardy.”
Van Huss and his staff at the Central Office have been hard at work to collect information from parents about their wishes for how they would like for their children to start the school year.
The end for parents to make their decisions will be Sunday, July 26th.
“I haven’t seen any results at this point but what I feel from the community is there are going to be a lot of people especially with the situation that we are in that may choose digital,” Van Huss stated. “Again, we are trying to get this information and we have a deadline for Sunday specifically so that we can start planning staff to cover a lot of scenarios.”
Van Huss advised that he will be in a conference call on Thursday with the regional health department, Carter County Health Department, and others to get more direction as to the opening day of school and if it needs to be extended beyond the current start date.
“I understand that people need to know what the plan is so our intention is try to make a decision by the end of the week,” Van Huss added. “There are so many questions out there by students, staff, and parents. We will take it as we go and put out information as to what we are going to do.”
In other business, the board approved the Guaranteed Maximum Price Amendment between Elizabethton City Schools and GoinsRashCain, Inc. (GRC) for the completion of the restroom renovations at T. A. Dugger Jr. High School, in an amount not to exceed $385,000.00.
When asked when the renovations would start by Board Member Phil Isaacs, Van Huss said with the board’s approval that they would get underway as soon as possible as the renovations will occur while school is in session but that T.A. Dugger Principal Chris Berry and his staff is excited to have the nearly 80-year-old restrooms renovated and have made plans to work around the renovations.
Also, approval was given to increasing the total number of Assistants to the Principal at the elementary schools from 2 to 2.5 using Title I funds and creating a half-time District Professional Development Coordinator position using Title II funds.
The board voted unanimously to approve a resolution for the Emergency Suspension of Board Policies During the 2020-2021 School
Those Board Policies are Policy 1.101 Role of the Board of Education, Policy 1.400 School Board Meetings, Policy 1.800 School Calendar, Policy 1.801 School Day, Policy 1.8011 Emergency Closings, Policy 3.206 Community Use of School Facilities, Policy 4.200 Curriculum Development, Policy 4.209 Alternative Credit Options, Policy 6.200 Attendance, and Policy 6.310 Dress Code.
Board member Dr. Grover May asked that at each month’s school board meeting that this item would be placed on the consent agenda as a way to make sure that the resolution is not just left hanging out there when it is not needed as a way to protect the board. The addition was also approved unanimously by the board.
Another matter of business was the approval for the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program Agreement between the City of Elizabethton, Elizabethton Police Department, and Elizabethton City Schools for fiscal year 2020-2021.
The board recognized EHS student, Haley Johnson, who came in fourth in Clinical Specialty (Virtually) at the International HOSA Competition and also heard from citizen Molly Lassiter in regards to the start of school and COVID-19 concerns.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be on August 24th at 6:30 PM in the Mack Pierce Board Room.