The Jackson R-2 School District approved a revision to the district’s calendar during its March 8 meeting, removing the requirement to make up any snow days that have occurred so far this year.
“I feel like this is really supporting our staff and our students,” Superintendent Scott Smith said. “We know that on May 25 and May 26, the educational opportunities are not going to be what we really want at that time of year.”
The district has had four snow days so far, surpassing the original number of snow days that would not have to be made up. The calendar approved in January 2021 said students would not make up the district’s first three snow days and teachers would not make up the first two snow days.
Smith said there was no need to add additional days to the calendar to make up the snow days, despite surpassing the three-day limit, because the district is already projected to be in session for more hours than the state requires.
“We are currently above the 1044 hours that are required by the state,” Smith said. “We project that if we miss no more days, we will be at 1079.4 hours.”
In addition to the four snow days this school year, Jackson students and teachers were required to switch to online learning for six days this school year. Smith said those days will be counted as regular instruction by the state.
“We have been doing AMI (alternative method of instruction) days,” Smith explained. “We were able to count 36 hours towards what we will turn into the state.”
Smith said potential future snow days would be treated as “district AMI days,” where students would be required to learn online.
“We would not submit those days to the state, but teachers would be held accountable for doing work at home, giving work to students and being available online,” Smith said.
Smith said the extra work staff members have had to do outside of the classroom due to COVID-19 more than made up for the forgiven snow days they will not have to make up.
In other action
• Smith discussed the possibility of district students going to Cape College Center to receive technical degrees from Mineral Area College (MAC) while still students at Jackson High School.
“It would be a strong possibility that a student could go there and graduate from Jackson at the same time they earn an associates degree,” Smith said.
Smith said an agreement has been made between Three Rivers College and MAC, where Jackson is now in MAC’s service area. The Jackson school board approved a statement of support for changing community college service regions to MAC in Nov. 2020.
“Mineral Area College plans to come to Cape College Center and offer classes,” Smith said. “The courses are still to be determined as well as the actual layout of the program – including how the courses will work and the number of days student are required to go.”
Smith said the district is currently working withSoutheast Missouri State University for the high school’s dual-credit classes, but Southeast is currently limited on the associate’s degrees they can offer.
“There are still a few questions about the college center that they are still trying to work out,” Smith said. “Right now they are trying to get state approval.”
Smith said the board had been asked to create a letter of support for the community college initiative, but there were still many questions from the district’s perspective. The issue was tabled for future discussion.
• The board approved new health insurance plans for district employees, changing to United Healthcare but matching the plans currently offered by Anthem.
“This year, we have been very healthy as a district – which was a positive for us,” Smith said.
The district had been a part of the MAAA insurance consortium, consisting of around 12 school districts, but decided to look at other options when Anthem indicated the con-sortium’s premiums would have a 6.6 percent increase.
“At that percentage, we made the decision to go out for bids,” Smith said. “We looked at United Healthcare as well as another self-funded co-op. We felt like United Healthcare brought back a very good proposal to us, matching all of our plans.”
In addition, United Healthcare offered the district the highest tier of pharmaceuticals covered under the plans. Smith said the current Anthem plans only cover a limited list of drugs.
Smith said most of the plans would cover South-eastHEALTH, Saint Francis Healthcare System and Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, though two plans at a lower rate would only include SoutheastHEALTH.
The base plan, which would be covered by the school district, will cost $572 per month per employee. This year’s base plan with Anthem costs $625 per month per employee. “There’s a little over $50 of savings for the district per month per employee,” Smith said.
Smith added that employees who upgrade to a family package should see savings of around $200 to $300 depending on their chosen plan. He added that ancillary insurance will be the same exact price as what was offered with the Anthem plans.
The base plan includes $3,000 in-network and $9,000 non-network deductibles. The plan also includes an 80% in-network coinsurance and 50% non-network co-insurance, $20 copay for tier-one prescriptions, $40 copay for in-network primary care office visits, $70 copay for in-network specialist office visits and $75 copay for in-network urgent care visits.
• The board approved a budget amendment to add $536,902 to the estimated expenditures in the incidental fund. Chief Financial Officer Terry Gibson said the change was due to “recent payment for legal expenses.”
The incidental fund is still expected to end the school year with a remaining balance of around $7.5 million. The district is expected to end the school year with just over $16 million total, down around $4 million from the balance at the beginning of the school year.
Gibson said an additional budget amendment could also be needed in the future due to the unexpected rising fuel costs for school buses.
“Something I’m going to be keeping a very close eye on is the increasing costs that all of us are experiencing,” Gibson said. “I do think it’s probably going to affect the district in some way.”
Associate Superintendent Keenan Kinder said the district uses 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel each month.
• The school board approved an evaluation of the district’s library media centers. The school libraries are tasked with providing resources, including books and technology, to supplement classroom learning.
Over the past three years, more than 120,000 items were checked out across the district’s libraries on average each year. This total is lower than usual because it includes 2020, when school was shut down for two months, in its average.
Each elementary school library averaged 20-25 classes seen each week, collaborating with classroom teachers to integrate literacy skills into the curriculum and assist with individual class projects.
At the secondary level, the libraries provide lessons on conducting research, online databases and plagiarism to all ELA classes. In addition, the libraries each offer maker-space areas and provide lessons on green screens and other technology tools.
Libraries across the district also take part in literacy programs to encourage reading at all levels – including book clubs, all-school reads, book fairs and incentive programs highlighting the state Truman Readers and Mark Twain nominees.
District libraries also host Chromebook repair centers and provide professional development for teachers.
• Associate Superintendent reported on the district’s COVID-19 numbers, which have gone down dramatically over the past few months. “Overall, I feel like Jackson is in a really great and safe place right now, as far as COVID is concerned,” Maxwell said.
At the time of the meeting, the district had three students who were positive for COVID-19. Three other students were affected by COVID-19 and masking when at school – either through the school’s ‘mask and monitor’ option or by choosing to quarantine for five days and wear a mask for five days. Zero staff members were positive for COVID-19 or affected by COVID-19.
The seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate from March 2-8 was 3.33 percent for Cape Girardeau County, with a statewide positivity rate of 3.7 percent.
“According to the new CDC guidelines that were released on Feb. 25, our county is now considered low risk,” Maxwell said. The new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now focus on the local hospital capacity to care for COVID-19 patients while determining if a county is low, medium or high risk for COVID-19.
• Missouri All-State Choir members from Jackson High School were recognized by the school board. JHS had five students named to the choir – Cameron Crawford, Emma Shields, Eli Fox, Sadie Middleton and Aubrey Hepler.
Crawford, Shields and Fox were able to attend the meeting and tell the board about their experience on the choir. They performed in January at the annual Missouri Music Educators Conference in the Lake of the Ozarks.
Crawford was also selected for the Missouri All-State Band and chose to perform with the all-state band instead of the choir. He said it was a lot of hard work, but “it was just wonderful to make music with that group of people.”
Both Shield and Fox said it was a great experience to be able to meet and perform with other top choir students in the state. “It was honestly one of the best choir experiences that I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad I was able to go this year,” Shield said.
• Librarians from across the district presented their plans for this year’s Jackson Reads event. The event will be held from 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursday, April 7, in the Jackson City Park.
The event, which was previously held on the old county courthouse lawn, will be held in the City Park near the lower tennis courts and pavilion. Food trucks and snacks provided by First State Community Bank will be at the event.
This will be the fourth time Jackson Reads has been held, with the first event taking place in 2017. The event was canceled the past two years due to COVID-19.
The event coincides with National Library Week and was created as a way to encourage families to read together. A book swap, local authors, guest storytellers and representatives from Riverside Regional Library will also be a part of the event.
Jackson Reads is in collaboration with other area schools – including Immaculate Conception School, St. Paul Lutheran School, Nell Holcomb School and Saxony Lutheran High School.
• South Elementary students and staff members presented the school’s South Saturday Spotlight program, where students help create videos highlighting upcoming events at South Elementary and students’ activities outside of school.
Fourth grade students at South Elementary make up the show’s anchors, videograph-ers, photographers and editor. Families can also submit their children’s accomplishments to be included in the show.
The South Saturday Spotlight videos are posted on the school’s Facebook page and on the South Elementary News YouTube page every other Saturday. The next video is scheduled to be released on March 19.