The number of students out of school because of sickness is growing.
Director of Schools Mark Willoughby told WJLE last night that a total of 382 students were absent Thursday. Still, schools will remain in session.
During Thursday night's School Board Meeting, Willoughby addressed the issue. "Yes we do have a lot of people absent. I'd like to say it's not going to get any worse but I think it will get worse. Right now we are encouraging people to wash their hands. We have the hand sanitizer portable dispensers set up at the schools. Those are being used. Monday, we will have someone who will bring us the stationary dispensers to put into the schools. That will help some. But at the same time, this is going to run it's course. They tell us this comes in waves so the real deal is we may go through this for ten or twelve weeks and then we may have another wave come through."
" What I would like to say to students and staff who are sick is don't come to school. We have people at our nurses station at eight o'clock in the morning that are sick. Those students who are there at eight o'clock in the morning, they were probably sick when they left home and it would help us all if they would stay home when they are sick. If you're not sick, please come to school."
"We have brought in a substitute nurse and now are running five nurses at all the schools. We usually have one nurse to work the high school and middle school but since that is where the main outbreak is of the H1N1 virus, we have put a nurse at the middle school and a nurse at the high school. We have a part-time custodian and we have increased that person's hours and we may increase another person's hours. We have instructed all of our custodians to go through and clean the door knobs, clean the bathrooms, clean the desks, and they are doing a good job."
"Our absentee rate is high and if need be, we will close schools. We are following the recommendations of the state at this time and we will continue following those recommendations. The majority of the students who are going to the doctor, if their symptoms are of the flu then I think that they are sincerely sick with the H1N1, but at the same time we have a lot of sickness in our schools including stomach viruses and respiratory problems that are not H1N1 and that has been confirmed by our doctors also."
Meanwhile, in other business, Director Willoughby presented the school board his monthly report on personnel.
Those employed for the 2009-2010 school year since last month include:
Jennifer Suzette Barnes, 7th grade teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Jennifer Cowan, Speech/Language Assistant at Northside Elementary School
Courtney Davis, 7th grade teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Christina Driver, school nurse
Randy Eaton, substitute custodian
Jason Farley, Special Education Assistant at Northside Elementary School
Michelle Fontanez, teacher at DCHS
Terrie Ford, Special Education Assistant at Northside Elementary School
Stephanie Fuson, Special Education Assistant at DeKalb West School
Audrey Goolsby, Speech/Language teacher at DeKalb West School
Denise Graham, part time vision teacher at DeKalb West School
Megan Hardin, 3rd grade teacher at DeKalb West School
Amanda Harris, part time Speech/Language teacher
Sherry Judkins, custodian at Northside Elementary School
Summer Kinnaird, school counselor at DeKalb Middle School
Martha Kirksey, 6th grade teacher at DeKalb Middle School
Adrienne McCormick, 2nd grade teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Elizabeth Nolt, 4th grade teacher at Northside Elementary School
Nena Page, educational assistant
Susan Palmer, pre-k teacher at Smithville Elementary School
Susan West, 3rd grade teacher at DeKalb West School
Judy Wiggins, substitute bus assistant
Heather Blankenship transferred to Federal Programs
Wendy Bowling to General Purpose
Amee Cantrell to a new Social Worker position
Brenda Beth Cantrell to Smithville Elementary School
Charles L. Cantrell to a full time custodian position
Wendy Colvert to Special Education
Beverly Ferrell to Federal Programs
Crystal Gordon to General Purpose
Betty Hickey to Federal Programs
Lori Isabell to a SPED Assessment Coordinator position
Rebecca Moss to Federal Programs
Lisa Pack to Federal Programs
Pam Sanders to SES Federal Programs
Teresa Spencer to Federal Programs
Peggy Sutton to Federal Programs
Glyn Taylor to a full time bus assistant position
B.J. Thomason to a full time bus driver position
Tiffany Wheatley to an SES CDC position
Suzanne Williams to Federal Programs
Crystal Young to General Purpose
Rachel Seal, Special Education Assistant, resigned
Julie Pugh, Special Education Assistant, resigned
Vickie Burton, teacher at Smithville Elementary, retired
Truitt Hale, custodian at DeKalb Middle School, resigned
Vickie Atnip, Educational Assistant, resigned
Meanwhile, the school board set the 2010 graduation date for Friday, May 21st at 7:00 p.m.
Director Willoughby, during the discussion, mentioned that the DCHS graduation rate has greatly improved. "I had said in public that our graduation rate this last year was in the upper 80's. Actually our official graduation rate for this last year was 91.3% so a big congratulations to everybody who worked so hard in making that happen."
The board amended the 2009-2010 school calendar as approved by the Board of Education on November 13th, 2008 by changing the Administrative Day as listed to Monday, May 24th, 2010. This amendment corrects a typing error.
Director Willoughby said there could be another change in the school calendar next month, which may affect spring break. " We may bring back to the board another calendar change, because the state has changed the testing dates for our achievement tests that will be given in the spring. Therefore when those dates are confirmed by the state, there is a probability of spring break being changed somewhat. We should have confirmation before the next board meeting."
The board adopted an emergency coverage agreement with NHC of Smithville. Under the agreement, NHC would be permitted to use school facilities for temporary housing in case of an emergency that would cause for the evacuation of their center such as a natural disaster, power outage, or other major factor.
The school board authorized the county to make use of a lot in the area between the health department and Highway 83 for the development of a Farmers Market, should the county choose to locate it there.
County Mayor Mike Foster made the request of the school board Thursday night. "Three years ago we applied for a grant for a Farmers Market and we were told last Tuesday that we will receive a $50,000 grant to build a Farmers Market. When we got it and signed it they gave us until December 10th to have it completed and everything done. They will be here tomorrow (Friday) to do an environmental impact on two or three sites under consideration. We're here to request an agreement on using the corner of Tiger Drive and Highway 83, the lot between the health department and highway 83."
Foster added "Our proposal would be that it would be an 80 foot long open shed and 50 feet wide with stalls about every 10 or 12 feet. It would have electricity and a concrete floor and provide a facility to wash produce. It would also have one or two bathrooms, handicapped accessible."
The board approved the sale of the DeKalb County Vocational House on Evergreen Lane as advertised for sale to Dwayne and Deanna Page for $135,100. This was the only bid submitted and met the minimum bid requirement as set by the board.
Director Willoughby informed the board that state funding for after school extended contracts for teachers is being cut by 40% or $37,000. "My recommendation will be to cut the hourly rate we put in place over a year ago, which means teachers and others will be working for the same amount of time and doing the same jobs for less money under those extended contracts."
Meanwhile, Willoughby says the number of students participating in after school programs is growing, but so is the problem in meeting the transportation demands. "Under our transportation department through the 21st century grant, we're running three buses. There may be a need to increase the bus service for after school students but we don't have the money to do that."
Transportation Supervisor Peggy Pursell added " We have three routes. We split our county into three sections to try to cover our whole county and take every child door to door."
Under the law, students can't be on bus for more than 90 minutes when they are being transferred back and forth to school.
Pursell says "Tomorrow(Friday) we'll take 49 students who have signed up at west school and see how long it takes us to run that route".
Director Willoughby says the options are to limit the number of students participating in after school programs, designate pickup points for parents to have their children meet the buses, or designate specific days when students in certain grade levels may attend after school
Willoughby updated the board on attendance, saying the enrollment system wide is currently at 2,998 students.
In his report to the school board, Dr. Bill Tanner, Principal at Smithville Elementary said the enrollment there is 583 students and more are arriving. " We usually get some more after Labor Day. We have 78 in pre-school, 199 in kindergarten, 181 in first grade, and 125 in second grade. We can take some more in first grade and a few more in kindergarten, but in second grade we're getting close (to capacity).
Northside Principal Dr. Gayle Redmon, in her report, said enrollment there is currently at 612 and Principal Danny Parkerson at DeKalb West School said his school currently has approximately 423 students. A portable will be added there to address any overcrowding concerns.
The board, in a routine house keeping move, amended the school budget by $4,606 to make it match the budget approved by the county commission
Board Chairman Charles Robinson explained that "On July 27th, 2009 The DeKalb County Commission adopted the budgets for the year ending June 30th, 2010. The Board of Education was given projected revenues from the County Mayor as required by state law in the construction of our budget. This bare bones education budget which included federal stimulus funds and use of our fund balance in order to present a passable, working budget without a tax increase and without eliminating positions, was considered an acted on during our May, 2009 regular meeting. Apparently the projected revenues used by the board of education and the projected revenues used by the county commission were not the same. Therefore there's a difference of $4,606 between the budget presented in May by the Board of Education and the budget adopted in July by the County Commission. Our action tonight would be to offset the $4,606 difference in county property taxes by dipping again into our fund balance to correct this."