Batesville School District students and staff will no longer wait for a letter from the Arkansas Department of Health before returning to school if they are flagged as a person of possible contact (PPC) to someone with the COVID-19 virus. The district is one of four in the state to receive a waiver from the ADH which allows students and staff to return to campus without the letter.

“It just removes the bureaucratic step of needing to have a letter in order to return to classes,” Dr. Michael Hester said during the school board meeting Monday night.

Specifically, people who quarantined after being identified as PPCs, were having to wait up to four days to receive the letter through the mail, thus extending their time away from campus.

The district received board approval to replace the sound system at Batesville High School stadium with a concert-quality system for $40,986. This motion received a “No more Charlie Brown?” comment, referring to the muffled trombone sound used in the cartoon to represent adults talking. The comment drew chuckles from meeting attendees.

The school board agreed to terminate two certified contracts with two teachers: Whendy Henderson and Michelle Pace, due to closure of White River Juvenile Detention Facility due to COVID-19.

The school board agreed to accept the following resignations from August and September: Diana Gann, custodian; Valeria Herrera-Garcia, English as a second language (ESOL) aide; Faellen Hill, teacher; Wesley Jobe, bus driver; Michelle Marshell, bus driver; Erika Moreno, secretary; Shane Price, custodian; and Margie Stroud, aide.

The board agreed to accept a resignation from Berenice Delgado Vega, aide; to accept the position of ESOL secretary. Bus driver and special ed paraprofessional Michael Beary retired, as did Sherry Long, a special ed aide.

The board agreed to offer conditional contracts to: Misty Henderson, aide; Faith Lucas, preschool teacher; Tiffany Payne, preschool teacher; and Jonah Rice, aide.

In other business, the district will be saving between $25,000 and $30,000 by running their security camera servers and monitoring the system on campus, rather than pay for outside server hosting and monitoring.

In preparing for the next academic year, the school district is looking at a traditional academic schedule, and possibly a year-round academic schedule, which would require supplemental salary schedules to support teachers and staff.

“Our staff is very cutting-edge and we’re seeing creative solutions,” Hester said.

The board voted to approve the district’s Parents and Families Engagement Plan, the School Level Improvement Plan (SLIP), and will ask the state board of education for a Ready For Learning (RFL) daily and weekly teacher planning time waiver, in order to give teachers more flexibility.

Megan Renihan received the Citizens Bank Above and Beyond Award for exceptional service in September. She is communications coordinator for the Batesville School District. The awards have been presented at monthly school board meetings since 2012, however, this month’s award is the first since February due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. All district employees can be nominated by their peers and are elected from nomination forms to receive the award certificate, along with a $25 gift card and 20-ounce insulated tumbler from Citizens Bank.

Hester reminded all attendees that Sept. 15-Oct. 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the many contributions, diverse cultures, and extensive histories of the American Latino community. The district has posted a National Hispanic Heritage Month message from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The next Batesville School Board meeting will be Monday, Oct. 19.

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