With all members voicing their agreement that students need to be back in as normal a school week as possible, the Massac Unit 1 School Board unanimously voted at its meeting on Monday to return to the four-day learning schedule on Monday, Jan. 4.
“We need to get kids back in the classroom and get yellow buses running,” board member Don Koch said.
The board agreed that students will resume the school year’s four-day schedule with in-person learners getting out at 12:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday so afternoons are open for teachers to work with remote-learners and keeping Friday as a full-remote day for all students.
Superintendent Jason Hayes said while some staff have asked about returning to an A/B schedule, but “that did not provide enough benefit versus the cost of education. My preference is to go back to the four-days of in-person with remote learning and try to figure out how to get back to five days. We’ve held off on this as long as we can. ... The (COVID) data’s looking better — it looks like Massac County’s COVID-19 numbers have peaked, and we’re steadily declining. We haven’t seen a huge increase they expected since Thanksgiving except in the older population.”
Hayes informed the board that the district enrollment is down 175 students from this time last year, which is the mid-year point. In 2019, it was 2035; now it’s 1860.
“I feel like if we ever get back to five days a week, that (number) will come back up, and we’ll rein some of those students. We still have a lot of students who are totally unaccounted for,” Hayes said.
He informed the board that Metropolis Elementary School principal JR Conkle and assistant principal Art Davis, along with the Regional Office of Education truant officer, have tried to contact the families of missing students by knocking on doors and calling homes, but they have gotten no response.
“They know people are dodging them,” Hayes said. “They can’t get ahold of them to get them back in school. They’ve made it all the way to the next step (of truancy), but they’re not having court because of COVID, so everything’s just kind of stalled, so there’s really nothing more legal wise we can do right now.”
Hayes discussed the repair list for the schools, noting the current stimulus package is reported to have three to four times more for school districts than the previous bill. “They’re including money for germ-prevention HVAC units in this stimulus package, which would help us at the high school and possibly at Metropolis Elementary School,” he said.
Steel gutters around the Massac Junior High School gym are rusting out and causing water to pool up and leak into the gym; they will need to be replaced. Hayes is also looking into the replacement of classroom carpeting at MCHS.
Hayes commended Unit 1 staff and students for the several ways they’ve teamed up with organizations, churches and individuals to give back to the community during the holiday season:
• The MCHS student council and advisor Faith Jones coordinated and delivered Christmas meals to 165 families in both the Massac and Joppa-Maple Grove school districts. Non-perishable items were donated by the community during a Dec. 5 food drive, with monetary donations from area churches, businesses and private donors purchasing hams at-cost from Big John.
• Staff and other community members purchased Christmas gifts for 231 Unit 1 students. Hayes said approximately $40,425 was donated toward the project. “That’s a lot for our little community. We’ve done this for so many years, people called to say they’d take a kid and sent a check for the staff to go buy for them. We had more kids this year, but we also had more donors. It’s a lot of donations and a lot of giving. ”
• Students at Metropolis Elementary School prepared notes and/or drawings to thank healthcare heroes in the region for all they have done in 2020. The notes, made on the students’ Chromebooks, have been posted on the district’s website at unit1.massac.org.
In other business:
• The board also approved the graduation date for Massac County High School as 7 p.m. Friday, May 14, 2021.
• To move ahead with bid preparation, the board approved the maintenance grant project to renovate the MCHS football field/track restroom.
• Among its bill paying, the board has paid off its 2016 bound series, which leaves the 2015 and 2019 bond series. Hayes noted if the bonds “run out, you’ll never get them back due to the equation that was built in when we were tax capped. We want to make sure we don’t lose that because it’s there for repair projects.” He said there are two options which will be presented in further detail at the next meeting.
• And, the board approved the retirement of Sandy Smith from the MJHS food service staff and the transferring of Angela Stubblefield to an open position at Franklin Elementary School and Shawna Herron to an open position on the MES cafeteria staff. The board will vote on the superintendent’s contract at its next meeting.
School resumes Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Students will be off on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in the MCHS library.