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Nashville school to stop virtual instruction program

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By John R. Schirmer

News-Leader staff

The Nashville School District will not offer a virtual instruction program in grades K-12 for the 2021-22 academic year. School board members voted 4-0 Friday, April 30, to accept a recommendation from Superintendent Doug Graham that the virtual program be eliminated.

“Everything will be face to face,” Graham said.

Nashville offered virtual instruction in 2020-21 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Graham told board members at an earlier meeting that a number of students were not completing their virtual assignments, with some not turning on the Chromebooks which the district provided for them.

As a result, there will be students who will fail one or more classes because they didn’t do the work, Graham said earlier this month. 

Graham had considered eliminating virtual instruction in elementary and junior high but continuing to offer it in grades 9-12. “The more we talked about it,” the better option was not offering any virtual classes, Graham said.

He checked with several schools, including Magnolia and Conway, which will not have virtual in the coming academic year.

“It’s the best thing” for Nashville, Graham said. “It’s time to get everybody back on campus, K-12. If we have an extreme situation, we’ll take care of it individually.”

Graham told board members that “we can’t be shocked if some families decide to transfer or go home schooled” with the absence of virtual instruction in Nashville. “If we have a great school and do things the Scrapper way, they’ll come back.”

In other business during the special meeting, the board approved Graham’s recommendation to add $500 to the certified staff’s salary schedule, bringing the base pay to $39,000 for a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree. 

“Our salaries have been stagnant for two years. We’re getting a cost of living adjustment of 2.3 percent from the state” which will cover the $500 raises throughout the salary schedule, according to Graham.

Total cost will be $126,880, with the state providing the money from the Minimum Foundation fund.

Classified employees will receive a three percent raise in their hourly pay effective July 1. Cost for the raise will be $40,000, also paid through Minimum Foundation money.

Board members voted 4-0 to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to pay teachers and staff for extra duties which they handled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The district will receive more than $5 million in ESSER 3 money. “One of the allowable expenses is duties that teachers took on for this year that they didn’t have before Covid,” Graham said, including cleaning rooms, cleaning desktops between classes and other jobs.

“They had more responsibility every day,” Graham said.

Every teacher will receive $17 for every day which they taught during the current academic year. “We’ll take $17 and apply it to days they actually worked and had additional duties,” Graham said. They will not receive money for days which they missed, including the four virtual days and four snow days missed during the year.

Classified employees will receive $11 per day, with the same stipulations as those for certified staff.

The money likely will be distributed at the end of May, according to Graham.

The Arkansas Department of Education “has looked at the proposal and basically given a thumbs up. If we get a curveball from the state, we’ll look at it again,” Graham said.

If each certified employee worked every day for which he or she was eligible, the total cost will be $600,358, paid from ESSER 3, Graham said.

For classified employees, the total will be $161,200.

The board accepted a bid of $84,000 from Brian Brown Consulting, LLC, for summer floor cleaning of most district buildings. The cost amounts to 48 cents per square foot, according to Graham. Last year, the district paid a Hot Springs company 60 cents per square foot. That company pulled out of consideration for the 2021 job.

Because Brown is a school employee, the board adopted a resolution approving his selection. The resolution will be submitted to the state for final approval.

The board accepted resignations from bus driver Gaye Graham and special education teacher Andrea Woodruff.

The following were employed for 2021-22:

Alayna Scott, elementary teacher

Allison Crump, elementary secretary

Betsabe Mercade, ESL/Dyslexia aide

Alyssa Harrison, special ed aide

Aubrie Combs, LLC para, new position

Karley Stapp, LLC para, new position\Haley Davis, LLC para, new position

Haley Davis, LLC para, new position

Gayla Rowe, special ed para

Kaylie Hignight, high school secretary

Mikayla Clift, special ed junior high

Deidra Murphy, sixth grade language arts

Laura Curtis, special ed