September Board Meeting Approves Changes

September Board Meeting Sees Approval for Changes in COVID Response
Posted on 09/08/2020
This is the image for the news article titled September Board Meeting Sees Approval for Changes in COVID ResponseAfter dealing with annual and monthly activities, the Weakley County School Board addressed several COVID-19 related issues in their September 3 meeting.

Steve Vantrease, Joshua Moore, and Kim Longacre were re-elected to their roles as Chair, Vice Chair and Tennessee Legislative Network representative for the Weakley County Schools. Resolutions for budget adjustments were passed including one regarding a Special Education grant that will help cover the addition of a new Transition Case Manager to work with students with disabilities in identify strengths and interests and training for the work force.

Director Randy Frazier’s report touched on several items affected by the COVID-19 crisis including after-school programs, free meals, Monitored Distance Education, a health update and a change in protocols.

“Overall the report today is good,” Frazier stated as he began his remarks. “We are going to finish our third week of school tomorrow. I can’t brag enough on the work our folks did preparing for schools to open. It’s made a difference. It looks different but it’s made a difference.”

He then announced that the after-school program will begin at Dresden and Martin Elementary Schools on Sept. 14. The Martin Primary School program is on hold until a director is hired.

Referencing an earlier announcement in the week, he noted the USDA’s extension of the Seamless Summer Options to December 31 means that all students, regardless of income, will receive free lunches. (Breakfasts are already provided at no cost.)

Frazier further noted that he and Director of Nutrition Trista Snider were in discussion as to proceed as an open site (whereby any child in Weakley County could receive a meal) or a closed site (the program open only to children attending school).

The program also allows the school nutrition staff to provide for students’ weekend meals which are typically served by the efforts of the Weakley County Backpack Program. Frazier said staff are working with leadership to coordinate efforts of the program which has been on temporary hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Frazier added that Monitored Distance Education (MDE) students who were already eligible to receive meals will be notified they are now free and provided details on adjustments as to when and where meals can be picked up.

The board then approved Frazier’s and school nurses’ recommendation that student and staff temperature screenings no longer be required as they enter buildings.
Frazier underscored that in the three weeks of checks no COVID-19 cases had been identified. He later noted that temperature screenings were no longer a CDC-recommended protocol and that Weakley County was one of the few districts that had implemented the additional precaution.

Masks, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizer usage are still required.

“As we have said, we will be adding things and taking away all year,” he emphasized.

Frazier told the board 3,312 students are currently enrolled on campus and 564 students are enrolled in MDE.

“Some of the hurdles we are facing are not so much machines and devices right now as it is help and aid for students who are at home,” he said of the online program which is monitored by teachers in different ways in different schools.

“Some schools have one person who is making contact throughout the day. In some schools, teachers are doing it in addition to their in-person classes and are being compensated for the additional work. In some schools, it’s working great. In some schools our teachers are getting overwhelmed. We are going to have to be flexible and adjust what we are doing. We don’t want to run off our good teachers. In reality, we have more teachers in the buildings that are needed right now. We may have to alter some schedules,” he reported.

As to rumors that he wants to shut down athletics, Frazier acknowledged, “I’m tickled to death that I get to go home on the weekend and watch a ballgame. I know our kids are happy. I just want us to do it the right way in moving forward.

“I’ve shared this with some of our principals and coaches, it’s important as best we can that we get back to a normal way of life but it’s also important that as we do this, we do it wisely, that we don’t jeopardize [the programs],” he said.

To do ensure the continuation of the programs, Frazier said coaches, players and fans will have to continue to do their part.

In a health report, Frazier noted the school system had fewer positive cases last week than the week prior with 13 positive students in isolation and 4 positive staff members in isolation. Last week 204 students were in quarantine due to exposure and now 147.

After a discussion of the crisis in locating substitute teachers, board members approved a pay adjustment to $75 for non-certified and $100 for certified applicants.

Assistant Director Jeff Kelley reported to the board that in order to comply with a legislative mandate of 60 minutes of physical education, he was requesting nearly 80 teacher waivers so that teachers can initiate and monitor a class, prepared by our PE teachers to address standards, during recess once a week.

Frazier ended the meeting by informing the board that he would be sending an email the following day to teachers and staff addressing concerns they might have regarding COVID-19 related issues.

His email, included the following:
“I want to say a personal ‘thank you’ to all Weakley County School employees. I appreciate the cooperation, hard work, and professionalism that you all have displayed during these difficult times…. I know that your stress level is high and I want to be supportive and help lessen your worries. I am uncertain in our state’s plan for student testing and teacher accountability this year. But I am very certain about my plan: Weakley County Schools will not be making any teacher employment decisions for the 2021-22 school year based on test scores this year! It makes no sense to hold teachers accountable for students that have chosen our MDE program during the pandemic.”

In other matters, Frazier referred to the COVID-19 sick leave policy that was suggested in last board meeting. He explained that a federal law now covers sick leave and that the district’s attorney recommended no action at this time. The board did give Frazier case-by-case authority to deal with situations that go beyond what the federal law allows.

For the upcoming scheduled parent/teacher conferences which are traditionally held the third Thursday in September, Frazier noted that the structure will look different and may be spread out for more than one day.

The board also approved volunteer coaches Keith Tucker for cross country at Greenfield and Justine Walker for volleyball at Westview.

To view the recorded Zoom meeting, click here.