The Jackson R-2 School District is looking at how to reopen next fall, as well as prepare for less sales tax funding due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Dr. John Link said at the May 12 School Board meeting that the administrative team is constantly talking about reopening plans for next year and plan on working an A, B, and C plan in the coming weeks.
“We are constantly talking about how to reopen and what it looks like – we don’t know and no one knows,” Link said. He added that the District has received multiple plans from various government and health organizations, and will compile a district-specific plan.
He added that there are still a lot of topics that need to be addressed including how to run transportation, if half-days are needed, if classes will be blended, how many students can be in the hallway at the same time and how to deal with 1,600 students eating lunch at the same time.
“Obviously a school with 5,000 students can’t have only 12 kids in a classroom and having one kid per seat on the bus is not feasible,” Link said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions.”
He added that it will be even more complicated for athletic or other activities where scheduling with other districts are necessary. Link also said there are many employees and students who are at a high-risk of being affected by the coronavirus that they have to consider.
“Come Aug. 24, going back to school is not going to be like it was March 16,” Link said. He added that this is also an opportunity to make the District better, but there are many decisions to be made in the near future.
In addition to making plans for the schools to reopen, Link said the District needs to prepare a virtual backup plan.
“We have to be prepared to start school virtually,” he said. “If we can’t start school regularly, we have to start school virtually.”
The District is also preparing for lowered revenue this year, due to anticipated sales tax decreases. Director of Finance Terry Gibson said the District’s March revenue from sales tax was down 12 percent.
To have a balanced budget, Gibson has worked with the District administrators to make cuts to next year’s budget. Link said the cuts will not impact student learning, technology or staffing.
Link added that District staff should expect a small raise and that the cuts are “some of the non-essentials that we’d like to have but we can do a year without.”
The District will also receive some funds from the national CARES Act, but that will go toward necessary changes to the school. “Costs will be up in some other areas – depending on how we reopen, if we reopen and how that all works,” Link said.
Some of the changes will include adding more hand washing and hand sanitizing stations, as well as changing out old water fountains and replacing them with bottle fillers.
The budget for next year is expected to be presented to the Board at the June 9 meeting.
In the meantime, the District continues work to feed students and plan for summer school. Around 105,000 meals were served in the months of March and April, and plans to feed students will continue this summer.
Link said the District has approval up until September to provide meals, and they plan on working out summer logistics for meal pickup soon.
The Board also approved new summer school dates, changing the planned on-site session to July 6-24. The District had previously planned on having the on-site session for elementary and middle school students in June, but Associate Superintendent Matt Lacy said the District needs more time to figure out how to reopen the schools for summer school.
“This is going to be an important time if we can get back in session for summer school, because really it is a soft opening for the school,” Lacy said. “It is a good time for us to see how we can apply many of the CDC guidelines in a school setting.”
High school and junior high students will be able to take virtual classes from May 28 to June 18. In addition, high school students may be able to take on-site courses from June 25 to July 17.
Lacy added that the District is expecting record enrollment for summer school. All of the elementary schools except Gordonville and Millersville will be open for summer school, if the on-site plans move forward.
• The Board approved an increase of $54,000 to the junior high construction project. The increase was due to multiple change orders that included the rerouting of an existing electrical line, adding fire doors that were recommended by the fire marshal and adding a unisex bathroom.
Link said they were able to offset some of the additions by eliminating a backlit sign and slab waterproofing that wasn’t needed.
“We are way ahead of schedule,” Link said about the project. “They have done a lot of demo on the inside that we probably couldn’t have started on until the first part of June [without the school closing].”
• Changes were made to 12 board polices to comply with Missouri law changes or to be clearer. The board approved a change to the purchasing policy that requires the district to advertise and receive bids for construction projects and all other purchases that may exceed $50,000. The previous threshold for construction projects was $15,000.
The graduation requirement policy was updated to allow students to fulfill one unit of math, science or practical arts with a computer science course, as long as the student has taken or is on track to take all courses that require end-of-course math and science examinations.
School volunteers who are left alone with students are now required to pass the same background check that is required for District employees. Another policy change clarifies that school board members are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect.
A change to the A+ program policy allows students to use A+ funds to pay for dual credit courses. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Beth Emmendorfer said that the A+ funds will still go to high school graduates who are attending community college or vocational schools first, and dual-credit students will only receive the funds if there are any remaining.
Changes to the school admissions policy allows students of military parents to transfer to the school and enroll online. Another change to the policy clarifies that the District cannot require Social Security numbers, and that the District will not mediate custody disputes.
Students who are victims of abuse, stalking and other crimes can now keep their physical address confidential. In addition, a change states that school volunteers cannot access student records without a criminal background check and only under the supervision of staff members.
Other changes included that the Board must approve change orders in excess of $5,000 for school construction projects, the first day of school cannot be set earlier than 14 days before the first Monday in September, a construction manager at risk must provide a performance bond if the project is estimated to exceed $50,000 and the District can apply to the state to provide alternate methods of instruction when school is canceled.
• Board Member Bruce Thomas was given the oath of office to start his new term on the School Board. The board also reelected Kelly Waller as board president, Brian Thompson as vice president, Bonnie Stahlman as secretary, Gibson as treasurer and Thomas as the Missouri School Boards’ Association delegate.
• The Board approved multiple food bids for the upcoming school year. Bimbo Bread, whom the District has used for the past 11 years, received the bid for bread and bread products. Prairie Farm received the milk and dairy bid, and Kohl Wholesale received the bid for grocery items and paper goods.