At the Aug. 17 Board of Education Work Session, members listened to topics concerning the first day of school and open positions with the district.
The first order of business was the 2021 budget hearing which had no public comments about it, so board members were able to vote to approve the budget.
Becky Hickert, Junction City High School, talked to members about the Department of Defense Education Activity grant that the district was awarded. The grant allows the district to pay college tuition fees and books for Junction City High School students over the course of the 2020-21 school year.
“Any eligible student from the high school can take advantage of these funds,” she said. “An eligible student is anyone in good academic standing who's in grade 10, 11 or 12 or in the gifted program in the ninth grade.”
She said students can enroll in coursework that offers dual credit or concurrent enrollment at any eligible area institution.
“We offer a variety of courses at Junction City High School for concurrent enrollment,” Hickert said. “So, they can take those courses as part of their schedule with us. They could take online coursework at an approved institution, and they could take on campus coursework at the Geary campus of Cloud (County Community College) because they can also earn dual credit for that work. We also could offer evening courses through an approved institution with JCHS administrator approval, because typically that would be in addition to their regular high school course load. It wouldn't replace a high school course whereas that dual credit, or concurrent enrollment might replace one of their high school courses. If they take those courses at Cloud, it counts as one of their credits that they're earning during the school day and during the semester, so it counts toward their eligibility because of that Dual Credit partnership. And then if a student meets all those criteria, this grant would cover the tuition fees and book costs for the student.”
Karl DeArmond, USD475 chief information officer, spoke to the board and the live audience about considering the purchase of 780 iPads for the use of remote learning. He said the reason for purchasing the devices is the inability to know how many computers will be returned in usable condition in the coming weeks. There are three scenarios for the use of the iPads in the district.
“Our preference would be if we don't have enough devices to go out to all students, we would pull the devices that kindergartners have now,” he said. “We would provide kindergarteners with iPads, and then use the pool of kindergarten devices throughout the district for any breaks to make them up. If that does not happen, we move to scenario two, which is we would give them to preschool students in the event that we would go to remote learning again. If this need does not materialize, the final need would be given to teachers to help them zoom children in the classroom or to provide remote instruction to children.”
After further discussion the board moved to approve the purchase of the iPads and voted 7-0 in favor of the purchase.
David Wild, USD 475 chief operations officer, talked about the custodial, facilities and grounds maintenance contract support the district gets. He said there have been evaluations of the of the solicitation of service and he wanted to discuss them with the board.
“The major change in this solicitation from the way the district has done business for many years is that the district has always supplied vehicles, equipment and supplies,” he said. “This new solicitation puts that responsibility on the contractor. They will provide the vehicles, the supplies and the equipment at that will reduce our vehicle fleet by 22 vehicles. So, we will now have a much more manageable number of vehicles once this contract is awarded and implemented. And then we also in the solicitation, you all remember that our biggest concern with contract performance was custodial support.”
Dawn Toomey, Personnel Services executive director, discussed positions that were requested for Seitz and Ware elementaries for personnel for their lunchroom playground aides section. These personnel will assist with the schools’ reentry plans and the district’s plan for operational purposes due to COVID-19, she said.
“Making sure that we're adhering to the sanitation practices that the district has put forward,” she said. “As well as the social distancing or physical distancing requirements that carry County Health Department, CDC, etc. and expectations at those two schools based on the current population of the students at each of those facilities.”
Other positions needed to be filled included a female physical education teacher and health technicians. All positions were approved and will be put up for applications.
District Superintendent, Reginald Eggleston, spoke to the board members about a program he found out about called Purple Star School program.
“This program basically says that we are a military friendly institution, and that we do certain things in order to meet the needs of our military families and students,” he said.
He said after speaking with the Military Child Education Coalition and the Kansas Department of Education, he was informed that Geary County Schools would be a candidate for the program and the first in the state to have the program implemented.
“If the board moves forward with the resolution, once each school has met the criteria, they will get a plaque that basically says, military friendly institution and that will be posted in their main office so that families can see it when they enter,” he said. “So, this is something that's good and I think just something that's beneficial for the district as well as it demonstrates to all of our men and women and soldiers how much we appreciate what they do.”
The board approved of the idea and moved to adopt a resolution to participate in the program.
Lacee Sell, associate superintendent, gave an update on the current enrollment numbers saying that the there are 1,853 students enrolled in remote learning, and 4,624 enrolled in in person classes making a total of 6,311 students in the district. This number is down about 700 from 2019-20 school year.
To view the whole work session, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oy9EjwKrag.