Piggott School Board Reviews Reentry Plans

Thursday, July 23, 2020

With a new first day for students of Aug. 24, members of the Piggott School Board heard options on how classes would be conducted at their regular meeting held Thursday, July 16. Members reviewed a draft of the reentry plan, hearing from Superintendent Barry DeHart and school nurse Mia Boren, RN. During the gathering they also approved the purchase of new reading curriculum for PES and the use of SubTeach for another year. Handbook changes were also put to a vote along with the purchase of insurance on property, vehicles and mobile equipment.

With all members in attendance, along with key staff, the meeting was called to order by board president Jim Threatt. Following the approval of the previous minutes, and financial reports, the body turned to the agenda. Among the items dominating discussion was the re-entry plan for next month.

DeHart outlined the first draft of the plan, a compilation drawn from the Arkansas Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control guidelines mixed with ideas from other regional districts.

“What we would be looking at is all children in grades four through 12, and all staff, will be wearing masks while they are mobile in the building,” he explained. “Transitioning from the cafeteria and such. But, once they're in their classrooms they'll be able to take them off.”

He also indicated a variety of other measures are being put into place, such as “sneeze guards” and other type barriers. Organizing the flow of students was also addressed, along with reducing the number of students in any given area at one time.

Boren indicated the CDC was still finalizing some of their guidelines, and noted the need for other tools in addressing the coronavirus pandemic such as an isolation area at each campus. She also mentioned the need for acquiring equipment, such as PPEs, soon for use by her and Stephanie Threatt, RN, the other school nurse for the district.

DeHart indicated the plan calls for parents to screen their children for symptoms, such as fever, prior to sending them to school. It also calls for children who are running a fever of 100.4 to be sent home as a precaution.

Compounding the situation for the nurses is the early-school-year testing and screening regimen, which Boren noted occupies much of their time the first month of each year.

DeHart also reported there would be a rigorous sanitizing effort of all facilities, a push to promote proper handwashing and various other measures to be implemented by use of a flow sheet.

Following the review the board chose to table the matter as more information is being gathered.

Earlier in the meeting, the board voted to approve changes to the handbook at PHS while no changes were noted for PES. Piggott High Principal Paul Seegraves provided a copy of the proposed changes to those on hand, which included resetting the school year and testing calendar for 2020-2021.

It also noted the school board positions and added Anthony Dowdy as assistant principal to the staff.

A line was added to the stipulation that “all students follow the directives of the Arkansas Activities Association, Arkansas Department of Health, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Governor.”

The punishment for smoking, using smokeless tobacco and vaping was increased with the addition of “the police may be notified at the Principal's discretion.” More stringent rules were also added to the policy for public displays of affection, a direct response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also addressing changes in the way school is conducted, the handbook now includes the term “blended learning” and establishes a method for counting absences. This also prompted changes in the definition of a school day, absences by “blended learning” students and the exemption policy for AMI on the same.

“I think this really needs to be a living document, something that we can change and adapt throughout the year in response,” Seegraves said of the handbook. He also indicated the updated handbook will be posted to the high school website.

On a vote of 5-0 the changes were approved.

Reading curriculum for PES was also the subject of a lengthy discussion, as board members were informed the current ones are not up to state standards. Offering the update were PES principals Brock Swann and Erica Harris.

They noted the district's status with the state required specific curriculum and the current ones are not recognized. DeHart indicated the district was poised to move up from Level Three this past year, but was denied the opportunity to test by the pandemic. As a result, new curriculum was required which meets all the parameters of the state.

Harris noted there were a number available, although none were accredited for K-6, just for students in K-5. Due to this, the elementary school would need two different ones to meet the state guidelines.

“We need a plan to meet all five of the core components,” Harris explained.

Based on the recommendation of the principals, and DeHart, the board authorized the purchases. The Benchmark Workshop program was purchased for three years at a cost of $122,000 with a supplemental program of Lexia Core5 for $11,900.

DeHart indicated the $122,000 cost for a three year agreement was only marginally higher than the $99,000 for just one year, allowing the district some flexibility in the near future.

For the sixth grade curriculum the board approved the purchase of Wonders Reading Program for one year at a cost of $11,156.88.

During his update, DeHart reported the district had gained accreditation for the previous school year. He also reminded the board members of the new first day of school, and of this past weekend's graduation at PHS.

Afterward, the board voted to enter into an executive session at 6:14 to discuss the hiring of a volleyball coach. When they reconvened at 7:08 they voted to table the matter and instructed DeHart to advertise for candidates another week. Afterward, they voted to adjourn.

In other business the board--

-Approved the bid through the Arkansas School Boards Association for insurance on property, vehicles and mobile equipment. This year's total is $39,831, which is up some due to several claims by the district in the past year.

-Gave approval to contract with SubTeach for the coming school year for substitutes at $75 per day, which is the same as the previous year.

-Voted to transfer $31,122.03 from the general fund to the building fund in accordance with Act 1107 of 2017. According to DeHart additional funds may be moved at future meetings.

Prior to the transfer the operating fund stood at $1,750,010.24 and the building fund stood at $1,682,660.39 for a combined total of all funds of $3,712,234.20.

(At a special meeting held Wednesday, July 22, the plan was approved. A complete copy may be found on the school district website at the following address)


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