By PATRICK CASEY
The Walton County School Board received a paper report from the county’s athletic directors as to the planned dispersal of the newly allocated funds to help cover costs given to middle and high school athletic programs. Middle schools in the county will receive an extra $5,000 next year with high schools receiving an extra $10,000. Each of the schools has adopted their own plan for distribution with each sport receiving either a full share or a partial share of the money under plans implemented at Walton and South Walton High schools. Shares also factored in the number of sports at each school as well as the total number of participants in each sport. Walton and South Walton High School allocated 14 full shares and six half shares to the 20 sports (boys and girls) programs with a full share worth $588 and a half share at $294. Each middle and high school submitted their own budgets for the use of the extra money with the majority listing uniform expense and the replacement of aged equipment as the top categories of need.
“The schools have received the initial contributions that were promised by this action and the repayments for the cost of the officials. All of the principals and bookkeepers have turned in those costs of the officials throughout the year and those have been paid. We are paying the rest of the officials cost for the remainder of the year, since March 4, as they come up. The program is working well,” Jim McCall, chief financial officer for the Walton County School District, reported at the meeting.
The school board met on Tuesday, May 6, to also discuss plans for expansion of Emerald Coast Middle School as well as a report on a property offer at Paxton High School, a construction update for area schools, a change in the group insurance policy, trips and finalizing of the “challenged materials” policy.
The school board held a public hearing for the changing of the challenged materials policy. No public was present for the hearing, but the board ratified the change in the process by a 5-0 vote to help speed up the process should a controversy such as the “Blithe Spirit” issue be raised again in the future. The new policy will keep the challenged materials in the curriculum until a hearing determines whether it should be removed. Previous policy called for removal of the curriculum while the hearing process was ongoing. Under the new policy, challenges should be resolved within 20-30 days while the curriculum continues.
Bill Elliott Jr., from Elliott, Marshall, Innes, P.A., presented a master plan and building program plan for Emerald Coast Middle School for an expansion project for the school. The project, which is not expected to get underway until next year, would call for a shared lunchroom bay with an elementary school (in the future), as well as a shared bus loop and expansion of the school’s facilities.
School Board Chairman Darrell Barnhill told Elliott, “We will probably be back with you when our budget comes around to get down to some real numbers.”
Tom Blackshear, Walton County school facilities planner, presented the board an option to purchase 31 acres of property abutting the western boundary of Paxton High School. The 31 acres were being offered to the board at a price of $775,000. Board members discussed the idea, but felt the cost and lack of need for current expansion of the facilities at this time did not merit further pursuit of the issue.
Mark Gardner, facilities coordinator, updated the audience on the various building projects throughout the school district. Bay Elementary School should have the new gymnasium building finished in the next few days. “The PTO provided funding for flooring, and it turned out really well,” Gardner commented. The PTO also provided a scoreboard for the facility.
“Walton Middle School has just seen maintenance completed on the concession stand area with bathrooms, press box and storage. We have put up some new fencing as well,” Gardner added.
The Mossy Head School is still on schedule. Substantial completion is expected around July 27. “That gives us about three weeks once we get substantial completion and certification of occupancy. We will have a busy July and August getting this building ready,” Gardner continued.
The new Walton High School is progressing. “Most everything in the building will be non-destructible concrete block. We have about 140 people working on the site. It is a tremendous amount of steel and concrete. The contractor estimated 600,000 concrete blocks in this building and almost 400,000 brick.”
Board members approved the school calendar for the 2008-09 school year.
Trips were approved for South Walton and Freeport High Schools’ girls basketball teams to travel to Troy University for basketball camp from June 26-29. The South Walton boys basketball team will travel to the University of South Alabama for a boys camp on June 13-15. Freeport’s boys basketball team will attend the boys basketball camp at Troy University on June 20-22. Freeport football coach Jim Anderson will take a dozen players to the “Down and Dirty Football Camp” in Deland on June 25-27.
Board members listened to a proposed change in the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Group Medical Plan that the school district has been using as it pertains to hiring new employees. Brad Hoard, the district’s insurance consultant, brought forward a change suggested by the insurance committee to change the eligibility date for group medical coverage for new hires to 60 calendar days after hiring, instead of the currently used first day of the month following the new employee’s hiring. This change was sought to keep the district from paying for a new employee that does not stay at least 60 days and is expected to save the district an annual cost of $150,000. The cost savings was based on approximately 200 new hires for the 2007-08 school year. The change passed by a narrow 3-2 margin with Mark Davis and Darrell Barnhill casting the negative votes. The policy change will not effect current employees, but will be put into effect on June 1 of this year.
Bill Laird and Sharon Roberts volunteered to serve on the Value Adjustment Board as school board member liaisons.
The Walton County School Board will hold their next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 20 at 5 p.m., at the Tivoli Administrative Complex in DeFuniak Springs.