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School buses, calendar addressed in Carter County BOE workshop

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
The Carter County Board of Education met on Thursday evening for a workshop session prior to their upcoming School Board meeting on Thursday, March 18th, 2021 at 5:30 pm.

Director of Transportation Wayne Sams shared a couple of items with the board in regard to bids for cameras and the purchase of three 72-passenger buses.

Sams advised that a bid for 30 camera units has been received. In speaking to the board about the cameras, Sams said, “If you don’t keep up with the changes in technology then you are going to be behind.”

The new cameras will present the ability to have five different angles including a front view, driver view, rear view, and side view. 20 of the 30 units will be purchased from the ESSER 2.0 funds.

REI will be providing and installing the cameras as they came in with a low bid of $55,650. Sams said there could possibly be a $400 to $600 difference due to the fact that when the cameras are ready for installation, it could possibly be during summer school requiring the technicians to make a couple of trips since the buses will be in use.

In regards to the buses, only one bid was received and that came from Mid South who markets Taylor Buses.

The bid for $92,994 was a better number than the one received last year which Sams said could have come as a result of a more competitive market.

A new feature to these buses will be a backup camera which will allow the driver to be able to see better when backing up as well as power mirrors.

Sams was asked if there could possibly be more savings by buying in a cooperative purchase with another school system.

“The problem is coming up with the same specs,” said Sams. “We like to have the 100-gallon fuel tanks which are huge especially for those buses that run up in Roan Mountain.

“Also, we have the LED lights underneath them which makes it easier to see.”

The estimated time of arrival for the buses is normally 180-210 days but Sams said it had been his experience that they normally arrive around 150 days which would put them arriving around August.

During the Director of Schools time on the agenda, Dr. Tracy McAbee first shared with the board the new school calendar and how it came to be.

“Everyone that had an email got the chance to vote on two different calendars,” Dr. McAbee advised the board. “There were 570 people who voted with 72 percent selecting option twoS which will be presented next week.”

One of the key items with the new calendar was time set aside for a Fall and Spring break which will allow families to actually book and pay for vacations without the worry of having to cancel out and lose their money.

Also, Dr. McAbee advised that some of the employees questioned whether they could schedule the Spring break at the same time as the city since some employee families split work between the two systems.

McAbee advised that the new schedule mirrors that of the City of Elizabethton in regards to Spring Break.

Also, Dr. McAbee advised that there will be two days built in during February and April for snow days with the first being February 21st. He advised if that day wasn’t used as a snow day, then the teachers and students would have the day off.

The Director made the board aware that Carter County students and their families can now start signing up for Summer School online or by calling their child’s school to register.

It is important to do so especially with many students who have fallen behind due to having an unusual school year due to COVID so that they may get help in getting caught up.

Dr. McAbee advised that everything would be just like a regular school day with buses running and meals and snacks being served to the students.

Friday, May 14, 2021, has been set as Graduation Day for all county schools as principals have advised the Director that all seniors have indicated that they want to graduate outdoors on the football field.

If it rains on that Friday, Saturday, May 15th would be set for graduation and if the weather is still bad, the fall-back day is Friday, May 21, 2021.

Unaka, Cloudland, and Happy Valley are scheduled for a 7 pm graduation while Hampton will begin at 6 pm.

In regard to COVID, Dr. McAbee had an interesting piece of information to share with the board as the good news was that the numbers are still trending down but the issue is that the age group that is coming in with the second-highest positive test is the 10-19 age group.

That follows the 50-59 age group which is currently leading.

The school-level guidance has not changed which means masks are still recommended if social distancing cannot be done.

Finally, Dr. McAbee advised that it looks like $13 to $15 million dollars will be coming to Carter County schools.

Board member Tony Garland stated he felt like the board needed to look harder down the road when deciding what to do with the money.

“20 percent must be used for learning gap closure ($3.5 million),” Dr. McAbee said. “I think we can use the money for building additions but I like to wait until I have it in writing where I can print it off.”

Board member Keith Bowers made a recommendation that a $1,000 bonus be given to the county’s school principals for going through such a stressful time in dealing with the COVID-19 along with Dr. McAbee.