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No spring break, but early summer vacation for students

McCreary County students will not have a spring break this year, but officials are hoping that means a longer summer vacation for those children.

The McCreary County Board of Education met Tuesday, and one of the most anticipated items on the agenda was the amending of the school calendar to accommodate the 22 days the school district has missed so far this year.
Senate Bill 119, passed by the Kentucky Legislature this month, suspends the requirement for school districts to complete 1,062 instructional hours, if those districts are unable to make up the time by June 5. The bill does not allow districts to hold Saturday classes, or holding classes for more than seven hours in a day.

Other legislation passed this session allows schools to apply for up to five disaster days, and the McCreary County Board of Education will do that.

With the missing days, and without taking any action, the school year would end in McCreary County on June 15 for students, about 10 days longer than the June 5 target date stipulated by the legislature.

The Board had several options to consider to make up that time, including taking some or all of spring break, taking Memorial Day and adding 30 minutes to each school day.

Board Chair Brandon Kidd expressed his concern over adding time, saying he couldn’t agree with extending the day any longer than it already is.

He then made a motion to take the five spring break days allocated, and to apply to the Kentucky Department of Education for five disaster days, which would put the final day of school (barring any more missed days) at June 5.

The motion was seconded by Debbie Gibson and passed unanimously.
In other actions Tuesday, the Board tabled a motion to hire Ross Tarrant as the architect for the Pine Knot Intermediate School roofing project.

Kidd stated he had concerns about other facilities in the school district, such as the pre-school facilities and McCreary Middle School, which is suffering damage to the foundation, possibly due to water damage from a blocked storm drain.

Kidd’s concerns were the costs over the repairs and the lack of funding to do any of them. It was noted the district has no bonding authority until 2024.

A representative from Ross Tarrant was present at the meeting and stated engineers have examined the damage at the middle school. The damage was not catastrophic, he said, but it did need to be addressed.

While the roofing project has been approved by the state, Kidd asked the Board to wait on approving any project until more information is available.

“We don’t need to move forward,” he said. “We need to get a list (of all projects) and prioritize.”

The last District Facility Plan, compiled in 2012, estimated more than $17 million was needed to work on issues identified then.

A special called meeting has been scheduled for next Monday to hold a working session on the budget, as well as further discussions with Ross Tarrant on needed repair projects and ways to fund them.

The Board also implemented a 24/7 no tobacco policy for all school district property, at the behest of the Lake Cumberland Health District.

The new policy, slated to take effect on July 1, means no smoking, chewing tobacco or e-cigarette usage anywhere on school grounds, at any time.
Additionally, the Board agreed to hire school nurses from the LCAHD, keeping the same medical staff in the schools, in exchange for receiving Medicaid reimbursements. The Board’s other option was to contract with an outside agency to provide nursing, which could have cost in excess of $200,000 annually.

Other actions included a discussion on school discipline reports.

The Board has asked for monthly updates on discipline actions in the district, and the information presented to the Board Monday did not live up to their expectations.

With simply a number of incidents listed for each school, Board member Gibson expressed her disappointment with the data, noting it does not give information about what actions were taken by the schools.

She stated she wanted a detailed list with each incident and the steps taken to resolve the issue documented and presented to the Board.

Superintendent Donnie Wright stated there were privacy concerns, but Gibson countered that she understood privacy, but noted the documents did not have to name the student or staff involved.

She noted two alleged incidents from last fall still have not been addressed by the schools involved.

“I want people held accountable,” she said. “The administration dropped the ball.”

Board member Rhonda Armijo agreed, noting – “Our job is to make sure our policy is stronger.”

A request from McCreary Central High School to include an extra science class to the graduation requirements died without a motion after the Board questioned the request, and no one from the school’s administration or Site Based committee was on hand to answer.

No action was taken on a request to approve 25 extended days for Pine Knot Primary interim Principal Anita Coffey.

Coffey, the school’s Assistant Principal, has also been assuming the duties of Principal Stuart Shepherd while he is on medical leave.

Coffey stated she is only allocated 25 days as part of her contract, and has already used those days up.

Since she is assuming both roles, and the money for the days has already been allocated, she requested the additional days.

Chairman Kidd questioned how the Board could approve paying additional days to a staff member, when they have been told the money is not available to pay for the positions they had created at the McCreary Academy.

Board member Gibson made a motion to approve, but no second came, and the issue died with no action.

The Board also donated $500 to the McCreary Middle School Baseball Team to go toward new uniforms, after being informed that the team has been using their current uniforms for the past 12 seasons.

Middle and elementary school teams are required to purchase their own uniforms, while high school teams get an allotment from the School Board every five years to purchase uniforms.

The next regular scheduled meeting of the Board will be on Tuesday, April 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Central Office.

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