Board of Education Meeting Notes from April 6, 2020

Board of Education Meeting Notes

The Geary County Schools Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday, April 6th to address issues and receive updates surrounding the closure of schools and the Continued Learning Plan for students. 

New JCHS Campus Construction Updates

The construction continues at the new JCHS campus during the State of Emergency declared by the Governor of Kansas.  Construction work was deemed an essential service, and has allowed Hutton to ensure that progress on the new campus continues to move forward.  However, Hutton has implemented additional safety measures to ensure the safety of the crews.  Workers now ensure that they are 20ft apart during the work and are working 10 hours a day for 4 days a week.  Managers continue to monitor health and safety concerns within the community to ensure that they are taking proactive measures to protect their workers.

Special Education Services

Nathan Down, Director of Special Education Services, gave an update to the Board about how the district is serving students with special needs and IEPs.  Parents of students with IEPs have been contacted and special meetings have been held for each student to ensure that the needs of these students are being met as the district moves to an online instruction platform.  The progress of these students will continue to be monitored as the district moves forward and adjustments to each student’s plan will be made, as necessary.

Information Technology Updates

Karl DeArmond, Director of Information Technology, gave an update on the functions of the district’s IT Department.  Internet hotspot devices arrived last week, and IT has been working hard to issue the devices to students and teachers that lack reliable internet connectivity.  They have implemented a curbside pickup procedure to hand out technology devices, where parents and students can drive up and call a phone number and their devices will be brought out to them.  Karl also informed the Board that almost 7000 people had logged onto the Schoology platform the prior week, and the help desk continues to field calls and emails to assist parents and students with technology issues and questions.

Public Comments Amendments

The Board of Education voted to amend the meeting and public comment rules for the next 120 days, due to social-distancing rules that are currently in place.  The Board of Education will be meeting virtually, using conference calling software, rather than in person.  The meetings will continue to be live streamed to the public.  During this time, the public will not be able to attend the meetings in person.  However, the Board will still allow for public comments sections at certain meetings, with some modifications.  Public comments for meetings should be sent via email to the Board clerk at ChristinaKausler@USD475.org.  Tina will collect comments and read them aloud during the public comments portions of Board meetings.  Comments will need to be received by 12:00 pm the day of the meeting in order to be read during the scheduled meeting.

For the public hearing on the JCHS high school costs, the comments should be send to PublicHearing@USD475.org.  The comments will be read aloud during the hearing on April 21, 2020.  This hearing will be live streamed to the public via the district’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/USD475.

These modifications to Board meetings and policies will remain in effect until August 3, 2020, or until the Board votes to remove the modifications, whichever comes first. 

Approval of Waiver for Continuous Learning Plan

USD 475 is required to submit a waiver application to KSDE regarding attendance requirements for students to complete the 2019-2020 school year.  KSDE has encouraged districts to apply for the waivers so that students can successfully complete the school year without meeting the requirement of in-classroom instruction time. 

Lacee Sell, Associate Superintendent for USD 475, gave a breakdown of the plan contained in the waiver application.  Some of the important aspects of the waiver application are:

-293.65 hours of in-classroom hours are requested to be waived
-Seniors will only require 21 credits to graduate, rather than 24
-May 21st will be the last day of the school year for students, and May 22nd for teachers
-All hourly employees will continue to receive regular pay
-USD 475 will continue to accept and enroll new students
-USD 475 will comply with all health and safety policies in effect
-Continuous Learning Plan is included in the waiver

Additionally, elementary and middle school teachers will be available to students and parents from 8 am to 3 pm, and high school teachers will be available 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, from Monday through Friday.

Help Desk will be available via telephone at 785-717-HELP and email at helpdesk@usd475.org from 8 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

Communications will be available to respond to emails and Facebook messages.  All messages sent Monday through Friday, from 7 am to 9 pm, can expect a response in 2 hours or less, and those messages sent on the weekends will expect a response in 4 hours or less. 

School counselors and social workers will remain available to students and families for the remainder of the school year.  The waiver application can be viewed in it’s entirety on the district website at http://www.usd475.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Geary-County-Schools-USD-475-Waiver-Appliation-Packet.pdf.

The Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the waiver to KSDE. 

New Greenhouse at Westwood Elementary

USD 475 has been awarded a $25,000 grant from Monsanto corporation to construct a new greenhouse at Westwood Elementary.  Additionally, Live Well Geary County has committed to contributing an additional $50,000 towards the project, up from the original promised amount of $25,000.  The district will need to contribute $45,000 towards the project. 

The new greenhouse is considered a classroom, and therefore, must be built to building code regulations.  This will require a contractor to install the greenhouse, and permits and inspections to be completed.  The installation is planned to take place in the summer months, pending receipt of funds and equipment.

The Board voted unanimously to approve the project.

The next Board of Education meeting will take place on April 21, 2020 at 6:30 pm.  The Agenda for the meeting, as well as the amended policies, can be found on the USD 475 website at http://www.usd475.org under the Board of Education portion of the menu.