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Carter County BOE approves bus purchases, sets retreat for ESSER funds

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
The Carter County Board of Education held their regularly scheduled March meeting at the Carter County Board of Education training building on Thursday and for the first time in a long time, the meeting had attendance from other individuals beyond the members of the board.

Prior to getting into the business portion of the meeting, Mr. John Brooks had requested to speak during the public comment portion of the agenda.

Brooks expressed his desire to see the board reinstate school to five days as his children have been struggling outside of the classroom and their retention level is better inside the classroom.

He added that summer school was a great thing and his children will be participating but that the time missed while schooling virtually is not only hurting his children but others.

Brooks also had a concern about work still being asked to be turned in virtually as his children has had assignments that had to be redone because they were not received when they were completed.

Finally, Brooks expressed his concerns with wearing masks suggesting that the medical masks are not being worn correctly as they should be disposed of every 30 minutes and a new mask used.

Also, the masks reduce oxygen intake for children causing many to nod off in class. Brooks suggested that parents should decide whether their children should be wearing the masks or not, especially in the classroom.

After the public comment section, the BOE approved adopting the agenda as well as the Consent Agenda.

During the Director of Schools report, Dr. Tracy McAbee shared with the board that as of the end of the business day that the ESSER 2.0 funds request presented by the school system has yet to be approved by the state.

Dr. McAbee also recommended to the board that Option B of the 2021-2022 calendar be approved as 72 percent of those who had responded (nearly 530) had approved of that option.

The board voted unanimously to approve the option for the new school year.

Also, the Director recommended to the board that they once again consider offering the $15,000 incentive to those who considering retiring early that was also offered prior to the 2020-2021 school year.

That is the $5,000 that the teachers receive for retiring plus an additional $10,000.

“I am not sure that it would be feasible to do that a third-year but for this year we would have a return and benefit for the district,” stated Dr. McAbee.

Board member Danny Ward suggested that there should be a date set for employees to make it known of their intentions to aid in having true numbers for the budget.

After a bit more discussion, Ward made the motion to give those who intend to take part in the early retirement incentive to make it known by April 16th at which time the incentive would not be available if not made by that date.

The board unanimously voted in favor of Ward’s motion.

Board chairman Tony Garland suggested that if any teachers had any questions that they should reach out as soon as possible to Peggy Campbell for clarification of any questions.

Dr. McAbee also spoke to the wearing of masks stating that the Department of Health continues to recommend that if students cannot maintain a six-foot distance to have students back in class then masks would be the only other option to allow students back.

Ward asked for clarification on the COVID protocol should a student come to school with symptoms of COVID as he had been asked by a parent with a concern.

Dr. McAbee said the same protocol that has been in place is still being used in that if a student is symptomatic, a school nurse will see them and at that point, if needed the parents will be called to come to pick up their child.

If the parents cannot be reached, then the student will be taken to an area away from other children. If it is determined that contact tracing is required, Beth Bare will then take over to complete the tracing with whom the students have been in contact.

After the financial report was read and approved, the old business was addressed.

Ward asked about how those who have applied for Head Start and Pre-K would be notified. The board was advised that those who have been approved will begin to be contacted next week asking for requested information for the final processing of the children.

Answers to questions and applications can be found on the Carter County School’s website.

In new business, Carter County Schools Director of Transportation Wayne Sams asked that the board approve the purchase of three school buses and 30 camera units that were discussed during last week’s workshop.

The vote was unanimous to approve the purchases.

Before dismissing, Dr. McAbee advised the board that ESSER 1.0 is finished, ESSER 2.0 is pending, and ESSER 3.0 appears to be bringing an estimated amount of $14,995,000 to the county.

Dr. McAbee advised that just as before the first 20 to 25 percent would be used for learning loss and was informed that the state is waiting for regulations for the remaining money.

With that in mind, the BOE decided to hold a retreat to talk about how to best utilize ESSER funds before their next workshop on April 8th in the event further discussion was needed.

The retreat was set for April 1st at 5 pm at the Carter County Board of Education training center.

A workshop will be conducted on April 8th at 5:30 pm followed by the regularly-scheduled April meeting on April 15th at 5:30 pm.