An extended break from the traditional school setting this winter likely eased pandemic strains on the Lawrence County School System, according to Superintendent Jon Bret Smith.
“All our schools transitioned to virtual a few days before the Christmas break, I think it helped slow the spread among the last big surges,” Smith said following a board meeting last Thursday. “We had several get sick that week before the holiday. Even extending the return to traditional school after the break, we believe was the right decision.”
Lawrence County students were delayed returning to school an additional day due to wintry weather advisories early this week. Students in Lawrence public schools resumed in-person classes at 11 a.m. on Tuesday after a snow day on Monday.
“We’re taking everything day by day,” Smith said. “Really the issues we’ve seen with COVID-19 hasn’t been among students, we’ve had more educators and staff members come down with the virus.”
Smith said educators and school staff are next on the state’s vaccination allocation list. Smith said he’s been told by state health officials that educators will begin receiving the vaccine sometime in February.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health’s vaccine plan, essential workers at high risk of coronavirus exposure, including food and agriculture workers, U.S. postal service workers, employees in manufacturing, grocery store workers, public transit workers, and those who work in education, will be the next to receive the vaccine after residents at least 75 years old and first responders.
According to ADPH’s plan, people identified in age groups at risk for COVID-19 or those with medical conditions that put them at risk, as well as essential workers not listed in ADPH’s Group 1b, will be the next group of individuals to receive the vaccine before it becomes available to the general public.
Smith said it is still unclear how vaccinations will be rolled out to the school system when the time comes, but he said school nurses will not be responsible for distribution.
In Thursday’s board meeting, Smith said the school system has received most of its CARES Act funding as of October, but the system expects to receive additional federal funding by March 31st. As of October 2020, which began fiscal year 2021, Smith said the school system’s general fund balance was at $8.4 million. Accounting for this year’s expected expenditures, Smith said the system has about two-and-a-half months in reserve for operations. He said two certificates of deposit the school system purchased two years ago have accrued $43,000 in interest, which contributed to the positive economic trend.
In Thursday’s meeting, board members approved a $14,500 contract with Suntronics LED Message Centers and R.A.Hubbard High School for the cost of materials and labor to install an LED sign. Board members also approved a $8,286 contract with Rayco Doors and Docks for doors at Hazelwood Gym.
Board members accepted the resignation of East Lawrence Elementary teacher Jessica Simms, effective Jan. 15, and approved the employment of R.A. Hubbard math teacher Rodney Scott, effective Jan. 8 through May 28; Hatton High School Agriscience teacher Kristi Murphree, effective Jan. 11 through May 28; and Moulton Elementary teacher Nancy LouAllen, effective Jan. 5 through May 28.
All school board members were present except District 2 Board member Gary Bradford. The next Lawrence County Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 6 p.m.