Board told of plans for opening school

By Staff, 07/22/20 9:37 AM

PRESCOTT – School is scheduled to start on Aug. 24, but this could change.

Tuesday night, the Prescott School Board, during its July meeting, was updated on what the Prescott School District is doing to prepare for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Fred Davis, transportation director, told the board how students would be transported to and from school while observing social distancing. If all students wear masks, he said, there will be one student per seat and all students will have their temperature checked by a bus monitor before they’ll be allowed to get on. A caretaker, he continued, must be available for children up to grade four should a child have a fever as they won’t be let on the bus. All of this will be documented and downloaded.

In addition, he said, the district will need to add two more routes for the mornings and afternoons. “It will be interesting and we won’t get to school before 7:45 a.m.” Davis added it’s good students will be having breakfast in their classrooms and the hope is to have all children at school by 8:15 a.m.

The buses, he told the panel, will be coming in off Moores Lane and dropping students off at Prescott High School before going to the superintendent’s office and letting of students for Prescott Junior High School. Prescott Elementary School children will be dropped off at the second entrance. County students will be delivered first, followed by students who live in town.

He was asked about family members sitting together. Davis said this can be done if they’re wearing masks, adding there’s no law in the state as to how young children can be and be left at home, which is why a caretaker is required for those 10 and under. Additionally, students will always sit in the same seat on the bus going to school and on the way home.

Robert Poole, superintendent, said the school must  have a point of contact person should a child have fever and be left at home. This is necessary to document, track and trace where a student has been. He added, students will sit in the same seats every day when they’re at school. Should there be a problem, the district will contact the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and follow ADH protocols.

Davis will be meeting with the district’s drivers this week on the upcoming school year. He told the board the drivers have a system to call parents, though it’s usually for disciplinary problem. Once the morning routes are completed, he added, the buses will be fogged. They will be fogged again after the afternoon routes.

The question was raised about students not having masks. Davis said something will have to be worked out on this. Poole said the district has purchased masked and will see how it goes, but the school can’t afford to furnish masks daily for children who continue to violate the policy. Such children will be sent home and do virtual learning. “We need people to help, too. We can’t provide the masks every day.”

Shannon Henderson followed with an update on a survey sent home concerning the virus. She told the board 625 of 900 sent out were responded to, with 347 being answered online and 278 via mail. Of these, 229 attend PES, 187 go to PJHS and 209 are in PHS. On the topic of whether parents will be returning their children to school, 449 said yes, 38 said no and 138 said maybe.

There was also a question about internet access and computers in the home. As far as having both, 199 said they had a computer and internet, but 118 replied they have internet but no computer. Overall, 179 responded saying their internet service wasn’t always reliable and 308 said they only had the internet on their phone or an unreliable connection.

Henderson said parents may have been confused on the question about transportation as 572 responded they could provide transportation if needed with 53 saying they couldn’t.

As to how parents prefer getting information, most prefer getting text messages, but Facebook and the Prescott website and app were also on the top of the list.

Should the district have to go completely virtual, 249 families said they wouldn’t need food services, while 168 said they would do drive through and 208 said they’d need meals delivered.

Roughly a third responded to the option of whether they preferred virtual or regular school. As to those preferring virtual education, the number was 131, while 215 said they wanted normal school.

Henderson encourages parents to get the letters back so the district can better serve the students and help with the transportation issue. Parents will be called soon.

In other business, the board approved a budget for the 2021-22 school year. This is mandated by law and must be published, but is meaningless as it will be changed.

The board also accepted the transfer of a student from the Blevins School District.

Contracts were renewed with PSD and Steed Mowing for $51,999.96 for grounds maintenance and trash services. In special ed, the contracts for Occupational and Physical Therapy were renewed with Ashley McLean, Stacy Davis, Tina Griffen and Ashley Hardin, while the speech therapy contract with Blake Hill was also renewed. There were no changes to the amount of any of these contracts financially.

Changes in the classified salary scheduled were made to make sure bus monitors and custodial workers all make $11 an hour.

With the change of the start of school, the school calendar also had to be revised. Poole told the board the district will not have on-site parent-teacher conferences. These will either be done virtually or by the parents being contacted individually. Students will be losing five days of their Christmas holiday as school will let out on Dec. 23 and resume on Jan. 4 for the holiday break. This, Poole said, is to make up for school having to start late. The proposed last day of school remains unchanged at May 27.

The board approved a policy change involving concurrent credit, with students now only allowed to take six hours of college credit as juniors and 12 hours as seniors. This, Poole said, is because there have been several students who’ve taken 24-30 college hours while in high school, but weren’t ready when they went to college and flunked out because they were unable to make the transition.

In addition, he said, a lot of students want to graduate early and this hurts the district’s  graduation rate. However, the change does allow for college credits to have the same weight as AP courses.

Reed Koger, a member of the board, asked if this wasn’t punishing those students who were able to get enough hours to skip their freshman year in college and make the transition as sophomores. He added, this is also punishing the families as it’s saving $2,000 a year as students can attend the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope free.

These issues will be addressed at the August board meeting.

The board approved making payroll transactions on line with ACT Transactions as this is an auditing issue.

Poole updated the board on plans for the new elementary school, saying the plans have been completed and are in the hands of the Arkansas Department of Education for approval. Once this is done, the district will put the project out for bids. Ground, he said, could be broken in late August.