By John Balch
The South Pike County School District has decided to implement a face mask policy for staff and students in grades K-12 when school kicks off the week of Aug. 24.
The decision was announced during a school board meeting held July 14.
Superintendent Brand Sullivan said there will be many challenges involved in the start of school but the governor’s recent decision to back up this year’s start date has afforded the district time for further planning.
He said rounds of personal protection equipment and numerous gallons of cleaning solution have been ordered. The district’s custodial staff is currently busy disinfecting the buildings and their duties will be moved to after hours during the school year so not to disrupt class.
Sullivan said student arrival time has also been backed up to 7:45-7:50 to avoid having large groups gathering in the cafeteria before heading to class.
There will also be more lunch periods to help with spacing and social distancing.
It was also announced that some students are choosing the online only option to receive their education. As of last Tuesday, there were about 10 elementary students and five high school students considering the online option.
In other business last week, there were two costly items on the board’s agenda – replacing roofs and saving the band hall.
Sullivan called in Scott Howard, who helped build the high school with his family’s construction company after the school burned in 1996 and also installed the campus drainage system, to discuss problems at the band hall.
Howard said the brick building has not been sealed in 20-plus year and that over time the elements, coupled with a major drainage problem have caused serious cracks and leaks and rusted out ceiling grids.
The building’s interior walls stay wet and are causing concerns about mold, according to the superintendent.
“It doesn’t look healthy,” Sullivan said of the state of the band hall.
Drainage issues are also causing problems on the down side at the field house.
There was discussion about drying the band hall out and covering it with tin and then addressing the other issues. Sullivan described the situation as an emergency and advised there was no partnership money available for the project. It had been previously discussed that the neglect at the band hall has resulted in the building not being covered by the school’s insurance.
Sullivan also described the band hall project as costly and estimated cost could be $200,000-plus.
The board also discussed the district’s roof project, which will be paid for in part by state partnership money. The partnership money will total $675,289 with the district’s cost to be in the range of $357,903.
Board members gave Sullivan permission to pursue the roof project and to present a plan for their approval before work begins.
Due to the school being closed for the last nine weeks, Sullivan said the district was able to end the year with $93,000 more in the budget than last year. The board voted to move $90,000 of that money from the operating budget to the building fund, which before the addition had a balance of $389,000.
Also last week, the board entered into executive session at 7:10 and resumed regular session at 7:35.
The board voted to hire Grace Hoover as bookkeeper for the 2020-2021 school year, Dawson Gentry for summer help through August, Sally Williams for training purposes at her daily rate, and Danny Eckert at his daily rate up to 10 days in July to support graduation.
The board also heard a presentation by program director Tanya Wilcher concerning federal money received by the district and how it is spent.
The board also accepted a bid for school’s student insurance plan from Diamond State Insurance in the amount of $4,584, and accepted the school’s improvement plan, which is a “working document” available on the school’s website.