By Eugenia Jones
Monday’s McCreary County Board of Education meeting drew a packed house with four individuals signing up to address the Board about a variety of issues including the need to recruit and maintain bus drivers, concern about a potential COVID-19 vaccine mandate, displeasure with virtual instruction, and concern about a possible change in the mask mandate.
Parent John King said virtual learning last year had not been a good experience for his children; however, he expressed concern about their safety if there is a change in current state policy and students are no longer required to wear masks.
“I have two kids who love this school system and want to go to school,” King said. “Children now make up 20% of the hospitalizations for COVID-19. We live in a community and a society where we all have to work out a way to get along. I just want to know my kids are protected. I don’t think it is asking too much to wear a mask.”
Truth or Politics Darlene Price expressed concern about the potential for a future vaccine mandate. Price voiced her concern about the track records of the companies who manufacture the vaccines.
“Please keep it in mind that these companies have horrible track records,” Price opined.
Price also recognized the position of the school board in dealing with governmental mandates.
“Remember, these people have no power,” Price noted. “If they resign in protest, the Kentucky Board of Education will replace them.”
During the Superintendent’s Communications segment of the meeting, McCreary County School Superintendent Corey Keith addressed some of the concerns of those attending the meeting. He noted the Board had originally approved a plan to make masks an option left to parents’ discretion. However, an executive order by the Governor (which has since been rescinded due to a KY Supreme Court ruling) and regulations implemented by the KY Board of Education mandated masks be worn by those in public and private schools. Keith noted the District could lose its liability insurance and Board Members could be removed if the regulations were not followed. Although the Governor’s mask mandate was rescinded, the Kentucky Board of Education’s mask mandate is still in effect.
Keith also noted virtual instruction approved by the Board is purely voluntary and is only an option for those who need it and meet strict guidelines.
“I fully believe students learn best in the presence of a skilled teacher,” Keith said.
Keith thanked and complimented those attending the meeting for the respect shown each other during their comments.
In other business, the Board adopted the 2021-2022 Compensating Tax Rate. The rates are as follows: Real Property-39.0, Personal Property-39.8, Motor Vehicle-46.7, and Utility-3%. Rates are per $100 assessed value. The 2021-22 rates remain the same as last year’s except for a decrease from 39.8 to 39.0 per $100 assessed value for real property.
The Board also approved a Board Resolution Relating to Quarantine Leave during the 2021-2022 School Year pursuant to state regulation 702 KAR 1:191E. Per state regulation with funding, quarantine leave is only provided to those employees who have been vaccinated. Currently, non-vaccinated employees in the district will not receive quarantine leave unless exempted from COVID-19 vaccinations for medical or religious reasons. Board Member Lori Foster questioned if the Board could do something to make the plan equal for all employees and asked for information to be gathered regarding the local cost of granting equal quarantine leave to non-vaccinated employees.
The Board approved a revised 2021-2022 salary schedule which grants a $1.00 per hour pay raise to all hourly employees in the school district’s transportation department which includes drivers, monitors, mechanics, etc. The revised schedule also grants transportation department hourly employees an attendance incentive.
The Board approved the owner-architect agreement between McCreary County Board of Education and Deco Architects for the renovation of McCreary County Middle School, including an addition to the building.
Additionally, the Board approved the ESSER assurances plan and tentative budget outline. The ESSER funds are federal American Rescue Plan funds that are COVID-19 related and designated for schools. Twenty percent of the budget must be earmarked to address learning loss (loss of instructional time.) Items within the District’s tentative budget outline include virtual learning platforms, outdoor furniture for social distancing and outside learning, after school tutoring/summer school, and renovation of McCreary County Middle School with no debt to the District. The renovation project meets guidelines for the COVID-related ESSER funds because the current building is too small and not large enough to allow for social distancing.
The McCreary County Board of Education meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 6:30. The next meeting will be held at Pine Knot Elementary School.
Photos by Eugenia Jones
Several parents attended this month’s McCreary County Board of Education meeting. Four individuals signed up to address the Board about topics ranging from the need for more bus drivers to COVID-19 safety.