Home Breaking News School board hears of pandemic fallout, field house repairs

School board hears of pandemic fallout, field house repairs

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By P.J. Tracy

Murfreesboro Diamond

Addressing COVID-19 issues due to the statewide closure of public schools, South Pike County School District Brad Sullivan updated the school board on several topics at the April 14 meeting.

Weekly meals were continuing to be distributed by the school district on Mondays, containing food for five days in each packet. Sullivan said the plan was working well, with the single day distribution being safer than a daily variety. He added the district was averaging 280 packages give at Murfreesboro and 180 in Delight, which includes preschool students.

He said the district has applied for reimbursement of funds for the meal program.

As far as alternative means of instruction (AMI), Sullivan said the progress was ongoing, but that the state Department of Education was preaching flexibility due to some students with limited or no internet access. The grading guidelines would be a combination of progression and attempt by the students when possible.

“Parents are not used to [school] instruction, and are perhaps appreciating our teachers more. It’s hard after working all day,” said Sullivan sympathetically. “I commend our teachers for the work they are putting in and I can tell the kids miss their teachers.”

Graduation ceremonies are up in the air, and a plan will be formulated depending on when and if the public can gather together. Sullivan also said prom was on hold.

Plans are in the works to allow students to return to school to collect any belonging that may have been left on campus as well as the return of the ipads in the students’ possession.

The district is also working to develop a plan to allow the schools’ classified staff help with AMI efforts when possible after 45 days of being out of work.

“We have a need and can work them in safely,” said Sullivan.

The field house is being upgraded at the Murfreesboro campus, with framing, a new ceiling and two new urinal installations under progress.

Further possible upgrades include doors and epoxying the floor if funds allow. Progress will be ongoing for the next month or so.

“I think everyone will be pleased with the final product, it’s a totally different atmosphere,” said Sullivan.

After passing a lease for five new school busses last month, the oder was rescinded this month after it was discovered that technically the order was illegal.

The accepted bid from American Bus Sales of Oklahoma was called into question after a state dealer questioned the legality of a lease transaction from a business without a dealership within the state. The lease was for $11,750 per bus annually for three years.

Sullivan said he discussed the issue with Mike Simmons, state Director of Transportation, who confirmed the legal issue.  The attorney general’s offices has been contacted for a ruling on the issue, but Sullivan said the district couldn’t wait until possibly August for such a decision.

As such, the board voted to accept a bid from Midwest Bus Company, out of Van Buren, for the price of $11,700 per bus in year one, $12,700 in year two and $13,700 in year three.

The lease includes a full warranty including tires and batteries and the Thomas brand busses should be delivered in July.

While the price was down from the company’s original bid of $13,400 per bus per year, it was noted that Midwest was the company that called the lease from American into question.

The board voted 6-1 to approve the measure, with board member Trent Cox being the lone opposition.

“They called our bluff, but wouldn’t match the price, so I just can’t vote in favor of it,” Cox said.

The board also approved the special education application for the 20-21 school year as well as a salary scale revision for classified personnel that featured revamped salaries for the district’s para-professionals.

The salary increases were to be “fair and equal with the minimum wage increase, but also fair to the district,” said Sullivan.

After an executive session, the board voted unanimously to approve the resignation of para-professional Tonya Dingler Bell as well as accepted the rehiring of certified and classified staff for the 2020-2021 school year.