While taking social distancing precautions, the Bryant School Board met on Tuesday to take care of school business, including the rollover of devices, approval for new insurance and plans if the coronavirus continues to close the school.
"I have to give a big shout out to our food service people," said Superintendent Dr. Karen Walters.
The school has been providing meals for students during the closure and has also been working with with the Arkansas Food Bank to get food for adults.
She is grateful for the support the community has given the school during this time.
Jeremy Cunningham, director of technology, thanked the board for holding the meeting. He reminded the members that the school went to a four-year lease model for its devices.
"It turned out better than I hoped," Cunningham said.
In the third year of the contract, the school is able to sell back both Apple and Windows products. For the Apple products, he expects the money from selling them back to cover the cost of the next year's lease of Apple products. For the Windows products, he expects the money made to cover part of the lease.
The board approved selling the old products and leasing the new. Cunningham plans to swap out the devices in late April and early May, as long as the virus doesn't make that impossible.
The MacBooks the school has purchased outright will be used for backups when needed.
Walters told the board she had been looking at alternatives to the school's current insurance. She did a comparison to see how rates had increased compared to claims made over the past few years. While most years the change was small, with one year even going down, for 2019-20, the rate for property insurance actually went up 30 percent.
She also said the school also has a $1,000 deductible.
While Walters has been happy with the current service, she recommended that due to the savings the school could make, the District should switch to insurance through the Arkansas School Board Association. She told the board she has worked with ASBA insurance before and it provides great service.
She also pointed out with the current insurance through the state of Arkansas, the school has to pay a third party adjuster when it makes claims. She said the State would not give the school a new quote to see if they should stay with its insurance.
With the new insurance, the school will move to a $5,000 deductible. Walters wants to set up a fund with $25,000 in it to be able to cover the deductible five times if needed so if a claim is made the money won't come out of another fund.
The board voted for the new insurance for the 2020-21 school year.
Walters told the board students were on their third day of alternative methods of instruction. The District is only approved for 10 total days of AMI.
While Gov. Asa Hutchinson said schools should be back in session after the end of spring break, the board discussed alternatives if school gets canceled again.
"I can't brag enough on our staff," Walters said about the work staff have done to make AMI days work.
She told the board the staff are looking into online options for instruction and that teachers may even do videos for instruction.
"We are planning for what-ifs," Walters said.
The primary concern is to ensure all students have access to the internet and devices in order to keep up with the work.
Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Dr. Angie Dischinger told the board of the survey sent out about online access, 3,500 responses have come in. Of those, 387 said they don't have a device to do the work and 234 said they don't have internet access.
Board members were concerned about households with multiple children and only one device.
The members are also especially concerned about seniors being able to get their work done in order to graduate.
Walters has reached out to Verizon and ordered 1,000 hot spots for students to use. The school has until the shipping date of April 2 to change that number if needed. She doesn't think they will actually need that many but wanted to be sure they ordered enough.
The hotspots are free to the school, but service for them will cost $40 per month per device. The service can end at anytime needed.
The school is also looking at providing devices for those students who need them to do their work.
The board also approved a revised purchase service agreement with Rita Guess, who has been serving as assistant to Business Manager Angie Drummond. With Drummond’s resignation starting Friday, Guess will become interim business manager until a full time replacement can be found. The board raised her rate of pay from $30 and hour to $50 an hour. She will continue to work on a part-time basis. When the position is filled, she will return to $30 an hour and her old position as assistant. Walters said Guess does not want the full time position.
The board chose Ben Lewellen as president, Kim Billingsley as vice president, Danny Chism as secretary and Dr. Scott Walsh as distribution officer.
The board approved resignations for Stephen Beck, secondary teacher, Cindy Broadway, elementary teacher, Jessica Brown, secondary teacher and coach, Tracey Bullock, secondary teacher, Rachael Chesshir, elementary teacher, Carolyn Hays, special education teacher, Carol Hill, secondary teacher, Tina Kimbrell, director of administrative services, Donna Lawson, elementary teacher, Tracy Paul, library media specialist, Tanya Ruble, secondary teacher, Janet Watson, secondary teacher, Angela Drummond, business manager, Bobby Gentry, school bus driver, Brooke Miller, paraprofessional instruction, Natalie Owens, secretary and Sidney Steel, maintenance. An offer was rescinded from Derrian Brown, school bus driver. Approved new hires are Kristianna Peckat, secondary teacher, Jessica Stratton, secondary teacher, Amber Benetz, paraprofessional special education, O'Shaunda Johnson, paraprofessional special education and Stephanie Verdell, secretary. Contract adjustments were made for Olivia Allard, addition of ninth grade assistant volleyball and assistant girls soccer, Amber Uptigrove, moved to secondary teacher, JudyAnn Patterson, to paraprofessional instructional.
The board also:
• discussed pay for bus drivers during the shutdown.
• heard reports on projects.
• approved financial reports.
• discussed prom and graduation being affected by the coronavirus.
All meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged.