School Boards Review Governor’s New Orders

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

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The big news at last week’s meeting of the Mercer County Board of Education was Gov. Andy Beshear’s order to shut down in-person instruction at schools across the commonwealth.

The governor announced the new executive order on Wednesday. On Thursday,  Superintendent Dennis Davis said he and his staff had spent most of the day going over the new orders.

Mercer students have been receiving online instruction since the county went red on Nov. 9.

Davis said if Mercer County moves back to orange on the state map, they will bring elementary students—from kindergarten to grade five—back to school. Davis said they hope to get at least two more weeks of in-person instruction before Christmas.

The superintendent stressed that the new mandate is an order, not a recommendation. He said the consequences of noncompliance are spelled out in the order. Davis said the school could continue with targeted instruction and their meal distribution program.

Board members asked how the school would make decisions about reopening or closing. Davis said they would look at how many students and staff members are infected. He said they consult with the Mercer County Health Department.

Davis said the state incidence map is only one tool they use to determine whether to open. He said the school could open if the county was in the red, if the school was not connected to the outbreak.

The executive order ends on Jan. 4, 2021. Davis said 100 more kids per school are returning from the online academy to in-person instruction. He said it would be harder to social distance with more students in the classroom.

“I’d really hate to see us go back,” said board member Billy Montgomery. He said students have seemed to be less susceptible to infection by the coronavirus, but adults—including teachers—have not. Montgomery said teachers working remotely as much as possible could help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Board Chairman Randy Phillips said there was a lot of contradictory information. Phillips said many parents are worried about their children falling behind. He said he thinks schools do a great job at social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing.

In other business, the Mercer County Board of Education:

• Received an update on the school’s finances from Finance Officer Amber Minor. She said the audit is basically complete. Minor said the school spent $5,000 of CARES Act funding and the auditor is waiting on guidance on how to report it. She said the auditor would present his report to the board in January.

Minor said the general fund cash balance was a little over $3 million. She said expenditures are down 10-percent compared to last year, which she attributed , in part, to the energy saving measures taken last year.

• Approved the King Middle School Girls Basketball Boosters, the KMS Parent Teachers Organization and the  KMS Football Boosters

• Gave permission to seek qualifications for the board attorney position that will have a new contract in January 2021.

• Approved a fund-raiser for the Mercer County Elementary School PTO, who will sell T-shirts.

• Approved selling a 1996 Chevrolet service truck and two buses as surplus.

• Granted permission to Mercer County Senior High School to apply for a $3,900 grant from Mercer County Community Endowment to help upgrade the computers for the engineering program. The computers have already been purchased with KETS funds and school funds and this grant will be a reimbursement of some of those expenses.

• Approved using $76,345 in state school security funds to upgrade the camera system district-wide.

• Amended the salary schedule to add a $6,000 stipend and 11 extended days for an ESL (English as a Second Language) coordinator.

• Agreed to apply for Emergency Substitute Certification, which would allow the system to hire substitute teachers who do not have the required number of college hours. The move will go through next fall.

Davis told the board the system has had a hard time finding substitutes. In the past, he said there was a time they were hiring certified teachers for substitute jobs. But this year, the school system desperately needs subs, he said.

Burgin

Burgin Independent Schools will cease all instruction, including virtual classes, starting Monday, Dec. 7, and ending Monday, Jan 4, 2021. At a special called meeting on Friday, Nov. 20, the Burgin Board Of Education reviewed Gov. Andy Beshear’s  new restrictions, which limit gatherings to eight people and mandated schools cease in-person instruction beginning Nov. 23. Middle schools and high schools will remain in remote instruction until Jan. 4, 2021. Elementary schools may reopen on Dec. 7 if their county is not in the “red zone” and the school follows all Healthy at School guidance.

“We will be utilizing virtual instruction until Friday, Dec. 4,” said Will Begley, superintendent of Burgin Independent Schools. “We will move 10 school days to the end of the school year with May 21 being the last day of instruction.”

For more information, visit the school’s website at burginschool.com or follow them on Facebook.

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