School Board Jan. 23 meeting passes rule amendments, accepts grants, honors students

WALKER RIVARD (center) from Magnet Innovation Academy was selected as top 11th grade student in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). Also pictured are Superintendent Russell Hughes, and Board Chair Tammy Smith.

Story by ADRIANNE WALLINE CAMPBELL 

The Walton County School District held its regular meeting on Jan. 23, 2024, at the South Walton High School. The last meeting had been cancelled due to the weather, so this meeting covered business from both agendas. A large group of parents were present to comment on the problems in one of the third-grade modular units at Butler Elementary School. The problems involved rodents, sewage back up, electrical issues, fly swarms, and mold. The board only recently heard of the problems and promised to fix the issues quickly. They had already been moved out of the affected area. 

Tina Rushing of CHELCO presented the board with a check for $34,479.04 for capital credits from 2004. 

Walton County School District 2024 Sunshine State Scholar: Walker Rivard from Magnet Innovation Academy was selected as the top 11th grade student in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM). He and his parents, will travel to Orlando for an extraordinary program designed to bring together scholars from around the state, connect them with employers that specialize in the STEM fields, and create a networking opportunity between the scholars and schools from Florida’s College and State University System. The two-day program honors each scholar for their significant academic accomplishments and celebrates the potential they represent for our communities and state. In addition to the honor the scholars receive from the Commissioner of Education, the Senior Chancellor and representatives from Florida’s colleges and universities meet with the students to discuss higher education opportunities available to them in Florida. This includes workshops for college applications and informational sessions on college funding for students and their parents! The 2024 Sunshine State Scholars program will be held May 2, 2024 – May 3, 2024, in Orlando, Florida. 

Lindsey Ryan Harp of the Walton Education Foundation presented a check for $147,000 from the Resiliency in the Community Grant made possible from a consortium of Florida Education Foundation. The goal for this funding is college readiness and bringing in a guest speaker to all the high schools. 

A public hearing was held to discuss Amendments to School Board Rules/Polices. No one commented on the items proposed; the amendments passed: 

• Superintendent’s compensation – The Superintendent shall at no time make less than another member of his/her staff and shall receive salary increases and additional compensation consistent with that approved by the Board for administrative staff each year, if applicable. This policy is subject to review during each Superintendent election cycle. 

• Safe and Secure Schools –                                                                                                                                      

A. No person other than a student and employee of a school site shall be on a school campus during school hours unless they are in compliance with Policy 9.07 (Visitors).

B. A student who is suspended or expelled is not in good standing and is not permitted on the school campus, school grounds, or at a school sponsored activity.

C. Any person on a school campus or school grounds not in accordance with this policy is hereby declared to be a trespasser and shall be asked to leave immediately by any staff member. Each principal shall keep a log of such incidents which shall provide the name of the person asked to leave and other pertinent information. If said person shall again be seen upon the school campus or school grounds, any staff member shall immediately notify the principal or appropriate local law enforcement officials without further warning. 

D. Individuals who enter School Board property, activity, or School Board meeting without a legitimate reason and create a disturbance or refuse to leave the property or activity when asked by the board chairperson, Superintendent/designee, principal or person in charge are subject to criminal penalty as provided in Florida Statutes. The person in charge shall contact appropriate law enforcement officials in cases of disruptive activity or refusal to leave the school property or activity and take appropriate actions to have the offender punished as prescribed by law. The Superintendent shall be notified of any such action at schools or school activities.

E. No person except law enforcement and security officers may have in his/her possession any weapon, illegal substance, or dangerous substance while on school property or at school events. 

• School volunteers shall meet level one (1) or level two (2) screening requirements as determined by the nature of the volunteer activity(ies). A person who has been convicted of a crime that would disqualify him/her for employment in the District, shall not be accepted as a volunteer. E. The volunteer is limited to providing no more than 20% of the number of hours the volunteer was expected to work per week before his/her date of retirement.

F. There must be a clear distinction between the duties of a volunteer and the duties of an employee.

G. The schedule of the volunteer, including the number of hours volunteered and type(s) of assignments agreed to by the volunteer, is controlled by the volunteer.

• Zero tolerance for school related crimes.

• Amendments concerning Naloxone (“Narcan”) 

• Non-degreed instructional personnel will be issued a five (5) year Temporary Certificate upon receipt of fingerprint clearance from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). 

• Full-time employees are entitled to three (3) days of paid leave each fiscal year for bereavement. 

• No Federal funds received by the District shall be used to:

A. develop or distribute materials or operate programs or courses of instruction directed at youths that are designed to promote or encourage sexual activity.

B. distribute or aid in the distribution by any organization of legally obscene materials to minors on school grounds.

C. provide sex education or HIV-prevention education in schools unless that instruction is age appropriate and includes the health benefits of abstinence; or

D. operate a program of contraceptive distribution in schools.

• Schools shall conduct six (6) emergency evacuation drills every school year that are non-concurrent with fire drills. One emergency drill must take place within the first ten (10) days of the beginning of the school year, and the remaining drills must take place at least every forty-five (45) days that school is in session. Four (4) of the six (6) emergency drills must address active threats. The remaining two (2) drills must address other emergency events, such as severe weather, natural disasters, hazardous materials, or reunification. An after-action report of each emergency drill and fire drill shall be prepared and sent to the District school safety specialist for review. [end of amendments] 

Next, Future Plans for Current Freeport Middle School Site were discussed. The student population growth from 2018 – 2023 is 38% in Central Walton (Freeport). The student population growth from May 2023 – September 2023 was 6.4% in Freeport. North Walton: 1.9% and South Walton: -.56%. Jill Smith said she some updated projection numbers concerning Freeport. There are just under 2500 units under construction currently. 880 multi-family apartments that will be coming online soon. There are 1574 single – family homes in some stage of construction. The plan is to use the old middle school and convert it to Pre-K to 2nd grade and ESE for those students who are currently in modulars. There are a lot of students on the Pre-K waiting list. 

CHELCO CHECK: Tina Rushing, Russell Hughes, and Tammy Smith.

Magnet Innovation Center Project and Design Update. They propose to add an administrative and class building 1, a music, P.E., and gym building, and a food, media, and classroom building. 

South Walton High School Athletic Complex Project and Design Update. Stadium improvements were proposed including a press box. 

A Guaranteed Maximum Price Proposal to Lord and Sons Construction, Inc for the ECMS Concession and Restroom was approved at $817,750.00.

A Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) to Allstate Construction for WISE Center Re-Roof Project was approved at $1,899,571.00.

Approval was given for the Architecture and Engineering Design Fee Proposal for Paxton Transportation Fueling Station to Caldwell Associates at $63,200.00.

A Deductive Change Order #2 to Culpepper Construction for Paxton School Project was approved for -$613,051.99. 

A Deductive Change Order #3 to Culpepper Construction for Paxton School Project was approved for -$200,494.79.

A Contingency Modification #12 for Freeport Middle School with Culpepper Construction was reduced $1,083,331.92. 

Approval was given for the South Walton High School Contract with Lifetouch for photography services. 

A DOE School Hardening Grant for the 2023-24 school year of  $166,754.00 was approved. 

A Contract between Remind101, Inc. and the Walton County School District was approved for $27,425.28, paid for with ARP Funds (American Rescue Plan Funds). 

It was announced that Brian Scott Michie, Jr., the son of Board member Jeri Michie, was promoted to principal of Dune Lake Elementary. He formerly was the assistant principal of South Walton High School. 

2023-2024 IDEA K-12 Federal Grant Allocation was approved along with Pre-K. “IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) grants are awarded annually to states to support special education services for children and youth with disabilities.  IDEA assists states with providing a free, appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment for children with disabilities ages 3-21. The IDEA K-12 grant provides support for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.”

Approval was given to purchase K-5 ELA BEST Texts (classroom sets) for $154,573.20. 

An agreement between Heffley & Associates and the Walton County School Board, representing the Walton County School Board in Interest with the State Government was approved for $24,000 for a six-month period. 

2024-2025 School calendar including the 12-month Holiday schedule was approved. 

Consent Agenda items:

• Freeport Middle School requests Board received approval for the 8th Grade Class to travel to Orlando, FL on April 11-12, 2024, to participate in an educational sleepover at the SeaWorld Complex.

• FMS 7th Grade Class to Travel to OWA Parks and Resort in Foley, Alabama on Friday, April 19, 2024. 

• Freeport Middle School received approval for the 5th Grade Class to travel to Orlando, FL on March 14-15, 2024, to participate in an educational sleepover at the SeaWorld Complex.

• Paxton High School received approval for FFA Students to travel to Gainesville, FL on January 25-27, 2024, to attend the Meats & Livestock Judging Clinic at The University of Florida.

• Paxton High School received approval for Band students to travel to Troy, AL on February 1-3, 2024, for Honor Band Weekend at Troy University.

• South Walton High School received approval for the Competitive Cheer Team to travel to Orlando, FL via charter bus on February 9-12, 2024, for the 2024 National High School Cheerleading Championship.

• Walton High School received approval for FFA students to travel to Gainesville, FL on January 26-27, 2024, for the Meats & Livestock Judging Clinic at the University of Florida.

• Walton Middle School received approval for FFA Students to travel to Gainesville, FL on January 25-27, 2024, for the Florida FFA Meat and Livestock Judging Clinic.

• The WISE Center received approval for Seniors to travel to Orlando, FL on March 27-29, 2024, for their annual Senior Trip.

• Various schools received approval for selected Walton County School District students to travel to Tampa, FL on January 9-14, 2024, for the 2024 Florida Music Education Association Professional Development Conference and All-State Concerts.

• Walton Middle School, Freeport Middle School, Emerald Coast Middle School and Paxton School received approval for 8th grade students to travel to Merritt Island, FL via charter bus on Feb 15-16, 2024, to tour Kennedy Space Center.

• Approval was given to South Walton High School to purchase a Postage Meter for $4,453.80.

• Approval was given to purchase 2 2024 Chevrolet Malibu’s for $53,212 from Alan Jay Fleet Sales in Tallahassee. 

• Approval was given to purchase precast concession with restroom, including delivery and installation from Leesburg Concrete Co. at Emerald Coast Middle School for $ 385,167.44.