Changes to school district calendar bring earlier graduation

By Shanna Cummings

School board members approved changes to the district calendar for the second half of the school year 2020-2021 which will allow graduation to take place almost a week ahead of schedule, on May 28. Additionally, the first grading period of the new semester will end before Spring Break, rather than after it.

The calendar on the district website already reflects the updates, and an announcement will go out to parents on Remind this week.

During the December 14 regular meeting via Zoom, Superintendent Ken Baugh explained that, due to uncertainty about the impact of COVID-19 in schools, the original calendar included extra instruction days in case of emergencies. Removing the extra days will allow graduation to take place on May 28, before the Memorial Day weekend, reducing the risk of increased COVID cases in the school after the holiday.

The extra week will allow teachers to prepare for summer school, which will roll out on June 7. Baugh said this year’s summer school will feature “aggressive academic standards” to help get struggling students up to speed after the challenges of switching between remote and face-to-face learning. However, much depends on the availability of vaccines by June or July.

Board members received an update on the construction-related gas line damage that closed the school for two days. On the evening of Dec 9, construction on the new parking lot damaged the gas line on 9th Street. Students switched to remote learning for Thursday and Friday while City crews completed repairs. Students were able to return to in-class instruction on Monday, Dec 14. High school students who were scheduled to take mandatory End of Course exams on that Thursday will make them up at a later date.

Board members discussed and approved designating the Maintenance and Operation (M&O) and Interest and Sinking (I&S) fund balances for future projects. Baugh said due to funding challenges, the state may seek to claim the money in these public school savings accounts to make up for shortfalls. Designating the balances for future projects may protect these funds for the district in that event.

Board members also discussed possible uses for the I&S fund balance, including paying off two bond callables (totaling $7.2 million) and additional projects like Elementary and Junior High activity areas ($500,000 each) or funding the daycare for five years ($1 million). Board members asked Baugh to create a solution that includes both callable payoff and project options, to be presented at a future meeting. More in the December 31 issue of the Advocate.

Baugh updated the board on the school’s COVID situation, emphasizing the school’s low percentage of cases compared to the community. At the time of the board meeting, six staff members had tested positive, with another five quarantined. Two students had tested positive, and three more were quarantined. He expects another surge from the Thanksgiving and upcoming Christmas holidays. Meanwhile, tracking positive tests and repeated exposures help identify patterns the district can use to prevent further spread.

Board members also approved the first-quarter financial report, board training report, and tax resale bids.

The board will hold its first meeting of 2021 on January 18 at 6:00 pm via Zoom.