Story by STACY MARTIN
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, the WCSB held its first regular board meeting of the month at the Tivoli Complex with the option for meeting via Microsoft Teams. All board members were in attendance, with Gail Smith joining via Teams. The meeting began with announcements and the approval of both the consent and regular agenda. Superintendent Russel A. Hughes announced that the Florida Commissioner of Education, Richard Corcoran, wrote a letter to the school district to announce that Walton County has been designated an academically high scoring school district for 2018-2019. The designation is based on the 2018-2019 school district grades, 2018-2019 financial audit reviews, and the 2019-2020 class size compliance. Walton County is 1 of 17 to get this designation in the state of Florida.
The next item was a request to advertise for additional amendments made to the school board rules and policies. The motion for approval was made by board member Bill Eddins, second by Smith. The board approved the request unanimously.
Under the Safety and Security department, a request was made for the approval of the Security Management Services agreement with Glaze Communication. The security management agreement will allow for a daily check of all cameras and access readers at every school and facility in the district by Glaze Communication Services. The board approved the request unanimously.
A public hearing began at 5:15 p.m. to discuss the amendments to school board rules and policies. According to the agenda documents, the proposed revisions include language that requires the threat assessment team to keep student intervention services in place upon transfer to a different school. The other amendment addresses the School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting (SESIR) requirements and states that personnel responsible for documenting SESIR are required to participate in the online training offered by the department. After the public hearing’s adjournment, a motion for approval was made by board member Marsha Winegarner and seconded by Gail Smith.
The next items addressed to the board were from the finance department, which began with a request for approval of the revised Panhandle Area Education Consortium (PAEC) resolutions and contracts for district participation in PAEC Central Services 2020-2021. The motion for approval was made by board member Kim Kirby and second by Eddins. The motion carried unanimously.
Hughes then requested the board approve the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC) Skyward-ISCorp School District Agreement. Motion in favor of the request was made by Eddins, second by board member Marsha Winegarner; motion carried.
Next, the board voted in favor of Seaside Neighborhood School and Foundation Financial Reports’ approval for August 2020.
Hughes then requested to approve employee hours worked related to Hurricane Sally. Smith made the motion for approval, and Kirby seconded the motion, and the board approved the request.
Approval of Walton County School District Monthly Financial Statements for July and August 2020. The board approved the request unanimously.
The Human Resources department requested the approval of Health Risk Assessments and Biometric Screenings for WCSD employees. Renewal of what the district has been operating with for the past three years. The district offers an employee incentive of $25.00 for participation only to apply to the employee. The board approved the request unanimously.
Approval of Oct. 6, 2020, Personnel Recommendations & Personnel Addendum was approved by the board with a motion for approval by Eddins and second by Smith.
The curriculum and Instruction department requested the Contract Amendment’s approval for the 2020-2021 fees and professional services with Gaetz Aerospace Institute and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The board approved the request unanimously.
Facilities and Construction requested the approval of Butler HVAC Upgrade – Phase I and Phase II projects. The upgrades will be the turnkey installation of HVAC equipment with the Phase I project being in Building Two and Phase II in building three. The motion was carried unanimously with a motion from Eddins and seconded by Smith.
The board then approved the request for approval of the architecture services with HoyStark Hagan for Emerald Coast Middle School’s new concession, bathrooms, and ball field lighting.
Next was the school board’s rank and select of the four construction management at risk firms interviewed for Freeport Elementary School classroom addition, parking and bus/parent drop-off, future existing school renovations, and future expansion. The four firms interviewed were AJAX, Allstate Construction, Lord & Sons, and Ram Construction. The board listed presentations from all the construction companies and then ranked them to their preference. The board ranked Allstate Construction first for the project and voted unanimously to proceed.
WCSD Director of Facilities Jill Smith discussed with the board the additional acquisition of real property. At the last meeting, the board approved the negotiations of acquiring property, beginning with the 110 acres off of Chat Holly property with the potential to purchase more if necessary. Smith brought back some potential for other parcels in the area to connect the additional 110 acres the district was looking at. The board discussed options for staff to look into obtaining the other properties adjoining the 110 acres available.
Next, the board listened to a presentation from the 2021 FSBA Legislative Platform. A lobbying representative spoke to the board on issues for the upcoming legislative sessions with items that would concern WCSD. One area of concern would be funding towards growth and enrollment. The other issue discussed was the cost per student station. Other topics addressed were more global, including holding school districts harmless on this school year’s letter grades.
And the last item on the regular agenda was a COVID-19 update from School Safety Specialist Charlie Morse. Morse stated that officially the state is in Phase III of the emergency reopening regarding COVID-19; however, even if the state comes out of all phases, there will still have to be safety precautions in place until the CDC changes their guidelines, most likely contingent upon a vaccine. Florida currently has 720,125 positive cases and 14,945 fatalities, and Walton County now has 2,021 positive COVID-19 cases with 26 deaths. Hughes stated that there had been one positive test in the school district, no new quarantines due to on-campus exposure, and only one in quarantine due to off-campus exposure. Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Jennifer Hawthorne stated that 50 additional students have returned to the traditional classroom since the last board meeting. The current enrollment numbers have gone up to over 10,500 students, putting their attendance rate 98%, with 86% of students at traditional brick and mortar, 95% ILDA, and 5% Walton Virtual.
The next school board meeting will be held on Oct. 20 at the Tivoli Complex and available via the Microsoft Teams video platform.