Tallapoosa County Schools superintendent Joe Windle announced a proposed four-phased approach for returning to school in August at Tuesday’s Tallapoosa County Board of Education meeting.
Windle also discussed the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Stimulus (CARES) Act, the challenges it presents for the schools and the amount of money available that must be spent by Dec. 31.
“We have already planned two options,” Windle said. “One is the traditional option to all come back on Aug. 24 and start school in a traditional setting but that’s probably not realistic.”
The more feasible option involves a blended approach to education including remote learning, school packets, small groups on campuses on rotating days and maintaining social distancing and sanitation measures.
“I want to applaud those working on a plan for the reopening in August and what that could look like,” Windle said. “We don’t have the guidance from the state yet but we’ve been told by (state superintendent) Dr. (Eric) Mackey we will get that June 19.”
The phased approach will be to restore, reconstruct, refine and return. This works on getting kids back to school while developing teams and instructional plans for continuing remote learning with additional training for teachers.
Tallapoosa County Schools has $770,000 for COVID-related expenses through the CARES Act that must be spent by the end of 2020, that total includes money already spent and money remaining.
“The act is designed to defray expenses incurred by school districts due to COVID-19,” Windle said. “I don’t know the total we have spent so far but we are tracking it and we will have those totals as we submit purchase orders.”
Most of this allocated money has been spent on personal protective equipment, foggers, WiFi, cleaning chemicals and other sanitary expenses.
“The only way we could get close to that $770,0000, we have to figure out what we will need to add to assist with remote learning,” Windle said. “Remote learning is going to be part of the options we’re exploring for returning to school. What we don’t know is exactly what we need in terms of internet capability and what devices we need for teachers to really conduct remote learning effectively.”
Another suggested item for purchase was either constructing an isolation room or leasing a modular building to act as one. Board members also discussed other sanitizing systems and plan to purchase a plethora of thermometers for schools and buses.
“We will have a CARES Act meeting (Wednesday) with the key players — nurses, (certified nurse practitioners), (schools facilities management supervisor) Mr. (Dwayne) Johnson and his crew, (chief school financial officer Tommy) Thweatt and (technology coordinator) Mr. (Joel) Padgett — to start completing required forms,” Windle said. “We should have a good idea of our wish list by the next board meeting.”
Legislators allocated $669,503 from the Alabama Education Trust Fund for advancement technology, which is half what was projected prior to the pandemic.
“We will eventually get that money but I do not believe it will be this coming school year,” Windle said. “We will be devoting most of that to the technology at Dadeville Elementary, the new school at Reeltown and upgrading selected elementary classrooms at Horseshoe Bend with touch screens and 21st-century technology learning devices in classrooms.”
The Tallapoosa County Board of Education also:
• Approved payment of bills for April
• Approved the monthly financial report
• Approved Child Nutrition Program produce bid with Quality Produce for a set contract on produce items for the entirety of the 2020-21 school year
• Heard from a Dadeville High School parent urging the board to reconsider the dismissal of the DHS band director and also inquiring about refunds regarding the band’s trip to Chicago that was canceled. Windle said he will follow up on the refunds and get an answer this week but nothing more could be done in terms of personnel discussion.
• Approved personnel resignations and employments and reminded the board all teaching units are Foundation Program units and salaries are not paid out of local dollars
• Approved an overnight trip at Lake Martin in August for Horseshoe Bend School’s cheerleading camp
Editor’s Note: More details on the four-phased approach will be in Thursday’s Outlook.