Listed below are notes from the August 24th Leon County School Board meeting.
Connor McCord led the Leon County School Board in the Pledge of Allegiance. He has been selected to be the student representative of the Board. Connor is a senior at Lincoln High, he is first in his class, an AP scholar and will have completed 19 AP credits by the time he graduates, he is a member of the varsity soccer team, and he aspires to be a surgeon.
Superintendent Rocky Hanna recognized Ms. Tabatha Pick for the summer musical performance for Leon High School. This year they performed Anastasia. Ms. Pick graduated from Rickards High School and continued her education in Choral Music Education.
The Board heard an update on the Audit Committee, by Board member and Chair of the Audit Committee, DeeDee Rasmussen. The district financial audit and the internal accounts audit are ongoing and are being conducted by Purvis Gray, it should be noted that the firm has stated that at this time the audits are going well and thus far unremarkable.
Jones inquired how the firms are selected for the external audits. It was determined that every five years there is a new request for proposal issued to select a firm.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Alan Cox discussed the current COVID numbers, the Leon County positivity rate is 13.8%, down slightly from last week. The PCR lab report return time is 1.34 days. Lastly, 57% of Leon County’s population, ages 12 and up, have at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
Dr. Cox said there are nine sites in Leon County, at the public libraries, made available for all students and family to have COVID testing performed. Also, a testing center is available for School employees only open at Lively Technical.
Also, Dr. Cox stated that according to data provided by CHP, 68% of employees have been vaccinated. Those numbers are only for those employees who have CHP insurance.
Over 2.1 thousand viewers watched Superintendent Hanna discuss the mask mandate that he imposed this past Sunday on students grades K through 8. He listed the increase in numbers of positive COVID cases that Leon Schools have faced since school began, stating last Wednesday there were 32 positive cases, 50 on Thursday, 48 on Friday, 40 this Monday, and 47 this Tuesday. He continued, there are 335 positive cases total in nine days, which is 41% of the entire total last year, and there are 974 students in quarantine.
After the superintendent made his case regarding his decision for mandating that students wear masks during school, nearly 60 parents, teachers, and concerned citizens spoke in favor of or against the mandate. As was the case in many of the meetings prior to Tuesday night, many individuals cited studies and commented “follow the science,” some cited the constitution and the bible, and others shared personal stories of their child.
One parent stated she was made aware of 11 different cases of children who had an opt out form, but was forced to put on a mask, one child was sent to the office until they eventually complied to wear a mask, another child did not have a mask and so was separated from the other students.
Board member Rosanne Wood listed some of the other options the Board and Superintendent could implement to help aid in mitigating the spread of the virus, such as, opening more space and allowing kids to eat outside, block scheduling, and staggered release bells.
Vice-Chari Darryl Jones stated, “I cannot unsee what I have seen…” and he cited the numbers which show an increase in positive cases and that there are more children in quarantine now than ever before during the pandemic, therefore he stands with Hanna in supporting the mask mandate.
Board member DeeDee Rasmussen made a motion to have the Superintendent follow the law and change the mask mandate to reflect the current law. The motion was seconded by Alva Striplin, the motion failed 3-2.
Wood also suggested a new campaign to advocate for vaccines for Leon County School Employees. She recommended a possible monetary incentive for those employees who have had the vaccine and for those who get vaccinated, perhaps a bonus or gift card.
The Board approved the issuing of $1,000 bonus checks to all LCS employees that did not receive a bonus from the governor of Florida earlier this summer.
The contract for Edmentum – a provider of online learning programs – was amended to expand the scope of the original contract. The expansion includes instructional and tutoring services for quarantined students. The amendment increases the cost by $29,000, for a total of $153,766. The resources will come from the CARES funds.