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Jackson High School to add fence to courtyard

Aerial map of the fence to be added to the Jackson High School courtyard. The new fence is in black, the drive-through gates and emergency walk gates are in red and the eliminated exterior exits are marked “XX.” Submitted graphic

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved a new fence to block off the courtyard of the Jackson High School campus including the Trail of Honor between the event center parking lot and the J-wing.

The board approved a $14,087 quote from James Fencing, which also includes two drive-through gates and four alarmed push-bar emergency exits, during their regular meeting on Nov. 16

JHS Assistant Principal Evan Theobald said the new fence would improve safety and security at the school, as well as allow for better flow between classes. “Kids travel from the J-wing to the lunch area to the B-wing,” he said. “This is an area that’s constantly being used as a hallway.”

Theobald said the project will eliminate 11 exterior doors from the school, as those doors would be considered interior after the fence is built. He added that many of these doors are currently not supposed to be used by students, as they are not always monitored.

“Kids know they shouldn’t use certain doors, but even though they’re told and reminded frequently, it tends to be something that we are reacting to,” Theobald said. “We believe that establishing this as an interior portion of our campus is going to alleviate the need for that.”

While the area can be opened during football games and after school hours, Theobald said the fence will cut down on the number of visitors the courtyard receives during the school day.

“We have folks on the outside that see this area as almost like a playground,” Theobald said. “We have folks throughout the day that are not students coming on campus through here – runners, walkers, bicyclists. They have no bad intentions, but this is part of our campus and our goal is to make this less accessible to the public during school hours.”

The fence will be a six-foot-tall black chain link fence to match the fencing around the football stadium. Theobald said this project came about after safety discussion between the high school’s administrative team and student resource officers.

“This is the weak spot on our campus,” Theobald said. “In the event that something bad were to take place, this is an area that is highly accessible by all sorts of folks. We understand that is not the end all, but this is absolutely a step in the right direction to hopefully prevent or delay somebody from attempting to come on campus with bad intentions.”

The fence will also allow the school to redistribute door monitors. After the fence is added, door monitors will be placed at the northeast entrance of the J-wing and by the event center doors to allow students to get to the high school’s Agriculture and Industrial Technology building

Theobald said it will be beneficial to have a door monitor at the event center entrance since that is where most students park. “That door is currently closed off throughout the day, just because we don’t have the staff to be at that particular door,” he said.

In other action

• The board approved bid specifications for lead water testing in the district. The district is required to test for lead water by August 2024 due to the Missouri Get the Lead out of School Drinking Water Act that was passed and signed into law in 2022.

The bid specifications outlines 842 water outlets throughout the district used for drinking water or food preparation, including water fountains, bottle fillers, cafeteria water faucets and ice machines.

“Hopefully we won’t have any water issues,” Kinder said. “I don’t believe any of our buildings have lead pipes. I don’t believe any of our water fountains would have lead. However, I don’t know every type of pipe that runs through the City of Jackson and these places, though I would assume Jackson is testing for this as well.”

The district is expected to receive $121,178 in state funding to cover the testing, as well as water filters and to cover time district staff members have spent on the project.

• The board approved the purchase of financial software for the After School Kids Club program. The board approved a contract with EZChildTrack with an annual cost of $8,100.

“It will be a better experience for our parents,” Assistant Superintendent Matt Lacy said. “You can enroll online, you can and you can pay online. It will be much more user-friendly.”

Lacy said the After School Kids Club currently uses homemade software through Google to produce invoices and bills for the program. “It was very appropriate for how the program started, but it’s really not sophisticated enough to keep up with the program now,” he said.

Lacy said the After School Kids Club program is entirely self funded and will continue to be after adding this additional expense. He added that the district would test out the new software this year and fully implement EZChild-Track next school year.

• The board approved a lawn mowing bid from Burnett Landscape Management for the next two years, with an option for the district to extend the contract for a third year.

Burnett, which was the only bidder, has mowed for the district over the past eight years and has provided mowing services for the entire district since 2021. “For what he is charging and the quality of work we get, we couldn’t hire people,” Kinder said. “This is much more cost effective.”

The largest increase in cost was for mowing the high school, which Kinder stated was due to the addition of several sidewalks since the last bidding process. “Sidewalks are labor intensive because it requires so much weeding and blowing,” he said.

• J-Click leaders Charlee Koepp and Lynn Avery Crowley spoke to the board about the work their high school club has been doing to promote safe driving habits including seat belt usage.

Currently, the club is collecting pledges from students and community members to always buckle their seat belts and to put down their phones when driving.

The club also does unannounced seatbelt checks and mock tickets in the school parking lot to see how many people are using their seatbelts. Students who don’t wear their seatbelt could receive a mock ticket from a school resource officer and those who do wear their seatbelt are put into a drawing for prizes.

The club also promotes safe driving through posters, candy grams, school announcements and assemblies with guest speakers. The club has also painted “Buckle Up Phone Down” at various school drop-off and pick-up locations throughout the district.

• North Elementary teachers presented to the board about including special education students in the general education classroom through collaboration and co-teaching.

Kindergarten teacher Jamie Klund, third grade teacher Ashley Carter, special education teacher Peyton Rabbass and special education teacher Jeana Roach all spoke about how they work together to make sure special education students receive the support that they need while still being a part of the general education classroom.

“We have started to create a great culture of inclusion that we worked really hard to establish,” Roach said. “We’re still in the beginning phases of this are hoping to grow.”

All the teachers talked about the use of co-teaching where a general education teacher and a special education teacher work together as a team to teach a class. The school has been slowly implementing co-teaching over the past three years.

“When you walk in to a classroom with successful co-teaching, you can’t tell who is the special needs student or a regular education students,” Klund said. “Everybody is getting included in the curriculum, in social groups and in academic small groups.”

The teachers stated that this method has lead to higher expectations, strong social bonds and academic growth for special education students. Roach said many of the special education students have been able to get on grade level academically through co-teaching and other inclusive practices.

• The board approved dates and times for filing in the upcoming April 2, 2024, school board election. Filing will begin at 8 a.m. on Dec. 5 at the district office located at 614 E. Adams St. in Jackson. Filing will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 26.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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