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NSB hears about new expulsion/suspension bill

By Staff, 01/29/21 9:39 AM

ROSSTON – A bill introduced in the Arkansas House of Representatives would make it nearly impossible to suspend or expel students who misbehave.

This was brought up at the January meeting of the Nevada School Board Thursday night. Superintendent Rick McAfee said the House bill would require school boards to review cases of students who may be expelled or suspended, and will be required to look at said student’s life history before making a decision. There are 10 points involved boards must look at, including whether the child has been abused in any way, and if any apply, they can’t be expelled or suspended – unless the board shows compelling reasons why they should be in writing.

Incoming Superintendent Roy McCoy said this will be a nightmare if it passes.

McAfee has talked to two of the bill’s sponsors, saying they refuse to budge even though the Arkansas Education Association opposes it. “They’re trying to prove a point,” he told the board, adding this is the strangest bunch of legislators he’s seen in 33 years. He told the board to expect more bills concerning education before the session ends.

Testing at Nevada Elementary School is under way and has been completed for the seventh and eighth grades. However, McAfee said the legislature passed a bill, which will go to the Senate, so letter grades won’t be assigned to districts this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual education didn’t work out like they thought, he informed the panel, and districts are getting a pass where testing is concerned, though testing must still be conducted.

On a brighter note, he said the district received a grant of more than $13,000 for a new shooting team. McAfee told the board he’s been meeting with parents and students with a lot of interest being shown in the sport. The money will be used to purchase targets and equipment.

In addition, Nevada will be adding volleyball to its list of athletic activities for students. McAfee said 26 girls in junior high have signed up for what will be a new team sport for the district. Volleyball, he added, is in Southwest Arkansas now and Emerson and Bradley also have teams.

The board approved amending a policy to allow certified and classified employees to be paid if they are quarantined because of COVID-19. McAfee said the state funds are running out and the state has suggested not paying those who have used up their 10 days. He said this wouldn’t be the employees’ fault and they should be paid. The board agreed, and backdated the policy to Jan. 1, 2021. The amendment will last one semester and see whether the governor says there’s no emergency.

All board members were recognized during Board Appreciation Month, with certificates from the Arkansas School Board Association (ASBA). McAfee said they had all completed their required in-service training for the year as well.

The board accepted a bid of $19,600 from Barton Roofing for a new metal roof on the bus barn. The current roof is 33-hyears-old and has no insulation. As part of it is wood, there’s also rot and weak areas. The new roof would be completely metal with two-inches of insulation. Two bids were received for the project, Barton’s, and one from Hostetler Roofing of Nashville for $28,552.

Additionally, the board approved buying a used bus for $68,500 as one of the fleet developed a four-inch crack in its frame and is now out of service. McAfee said it would cost more than $12,000 to repair and the bus isn’t worth it. He told the board he found a 2018 model with 27,000 miles from Midwest Bus Services and it would last a long time. A new bus with the same equipment would run $102,000. The new bus can be delivered in a week. McAfee said under the new COVID funding guidelines, the money can be used for transportation, though the bus would have to be air conditioned. He’ll look at having a/c installed on the new bus and see if COVID money can be used to buy it. If not, he’ll take out a five-year lone from a local bank.

McAfee said the district will receive $421,000 in COVID money and would like to use part of these funds to have new air conditioning units throughout the plant as they are 33-years-old. With luck, he told the board, this can be done for around $200,000, but the district won’t have to use any of its bond money, which can be used for other projects. He said the rest of the COVID money could be used to purchase buses and improve the fleet. These funds must be spent by 2023 and the money obligated by Jan. 2022.

In other business, he said 44 employees got their first COVID vaccines recently and everyone seems to be doing well. Employees from Express Rx came to the school to administer the shots.

Under personnel, McAfee said he’s spoken with McCoy about when the new superintendent should come on board officially. McCoy’s start date will be June 21. He will work with McAfee, getting familiar with everything and become the official superintendent on July 1, 2021. McAfee said he’d be available to help after June 30 if needed. The board agreed to give McCoy a per deim salary starting June 21.

As the meeting came to a close, McAfee said the district basketball tournament will be the week of Feb. 15 and there will be no junior high tourney this year due to the pandemic. There will be one game per venue with the top teams being the home teams. This means Nevada’s boys will be home and the final games will determine where the girls plat.

Senior night will be Thursday, Feb. 4 for seniors in all sports. Each senior is allowed seven guests. The event will be held in the gym.

The regional basketball tourney will be in Emerson with the girls playing at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and the boys playing at 1 and 7 p.m. The gym will be cleared out between games and cleaned to help prevent the spread of the virus. This year’s state tournament will be at Greer’s Ferry the week after the regional tilt.