Hope School Board Tackles Multiple Initiatives

By Ken McLemore/Hope Public Schools, 10/19/21 9:43 PM

HOPE – On the heels of the district’s annual Report to the Public, the Hope Public Schools Board of Education tackled a number of major initiative next steps Monday night.

Key to the board’s discussions was a decision to retain a Monticello, Ar., based consulting firm to guide the board through the board redistricting process as required by federal law after each U.S. Census.

“We want to make sure we are doing things the right way,” HPS Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Crossley said.

The board voted to retain EFS GeoTechnologies to produce demographic and geographic data and possible applications which reflects the impact of the 2020 Census upon the seven representative zones of the board.

And, the board voted to increase terms for board members from three years to five years, based upon the recommendation of the district’s attorney, Whitney Moore, of Camden.

EFS GeoTechnologies proposed a two-phase project, including a data report which will show the board whether changes should be made to current board zone boundaries and geographic mapping which will offer recommendations for any changes based upon the company’s findings.

The two-phased project is priced at $2,500 for the data production and $3,500 for any proposed district mapping.

“It’s certainly a possibility there won’t be enough change to merit any changes in your zones, but we don’t want to bank on that,” Moore told the board.

Moore said state and federal law require board zones of substantially equal voting age populations and state law requires an equal number of board seats be subject to election annually. She said after the rezoning process, board members will be required to draw for placement of their terms at the next election.

Currently, four members of the board will be subject to re-election in May, 2022, including Zone 3 Representative Margaret Moss, whose seat is open pending the election to complete her term in May, 2023, Zone 4 Representative Jimmy Courtney, Zone 6 Representative Kathryn Dickinson and Zone 7 Representative Alvis Hamilton.

Dickinson and Moss’ terms were skewed because they were originally seated on the board by appointment.

Also, Monday, the board considered new options to the district’s student quarantine policy for COVID-19 to introduce a 7-day and 10-day options.

Parents will be given the opportunity to choose when their student is notified of an exposure to COVID-19.

The 7-day option requires the student to wait five days prior to obtaining a COVID-19 test, but also requires that any “rapid test” be followed by a PCR and results made available for the student to return to campus. The student’s campus must be notified on Day 7 for completion of a telephone screening assessment prior to a return to campus only beginning Day 8.

The 10-day option requires no testing, but the student’s campus must be notified on Day 10 and cannot return to campus prior to Day 11.

The plan also requires students returning from quarantine less than 14 days to wear a face mask when returning to activities such as athletics practices or competition until the full 14-day period is satisfied, unless mask usage during those activities poses a danger of injury or strangulation to the student.

The board also updated the district’s certified personnel COVID-19 Emergency Leave policy which had been tabled from earlier discussions by the board.

In other matters Monday, the board:

–Discussed the decision to appeal the ruling by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals overturning the decision by U.S. District Judge Susan O. Hickey to modify and extend the desegregation order in Davis v. Franks to effectively exempt the HPS from the state’s “school choice” law. The appeal to the full Eighth Circuit Court was filed Oct. 12.

–Finalized acceptance of a contract between the HPS and Oxford, Miss., based Scott Consulting LLC for the development of a $15 million magnet school grant proposal.

–Discussed the renewal of the Bobcats Work employee apprentice program which was suspended because of COVID-19.

–Accepted the renewal of a contract with Sourcewell for fire alarm systems for three years at a cost of $79,107.

–Accepted a facilities use request from the Yerger Alumni Association for the July 7-9 Yerger Reunion.

–Adopted personnel recommendations.