Walton County School district March 24 virtual board meeting

Story by STACY MARTIN

On March 24, the Walton County School District held its regular council meeting virtually, operating within the Sunshine Laws as approved by the Executive Board of the Governor Ron DeSantis.  

Next on the agenda was the approval of the following meeting minutes: March 24, 2020 Regular Meeting Agenda, March 3, 2020 Construction Management Interviews for Freeport Transportation Facility, and March 3, 2020 Regular Meeting.  All minutes were approved unanimously.  

Under the Finance Department:  approval of the Walton County School District monthly financial statements for February 2020 and the approval of Walton Academy Financial statements for February 2020.  Both items were approved unanimously. 

Human Resource Department request:  Approval of the 2019-2020 Insurance Committee Members.  Motion by Gail Smith, second by Kim Kirby. Final Resolution: Motion Carried

Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner. Approval of March 24, 2020 Personnel Recommendations & Personnel Addendum: a motion was made Marsha Winegarner, second by Bill Eddins. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner.

Curriculum and instruction department requested Approval of PAEC In-service Program for Add-on Endorsement in Reading. Motion by Marsha Winegarner, second by Kim Kirby. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner

Technology department:  Approval to replace copiers that have come to the end of their contract date. Copiers will be leased for Maude Saunders Elementary School, Walton Middle School, Tivoli Complex, WISE Center – ESE Department, Bay Elementary School, Freeport Elementary School, Freeport High School, Freeport Middle School, Paxton School South Walton High School, Van R. Butler Elementary School, Walton High School, and West DeFuniak Elementary School.  Motion by Bill Eddins, second by Gail Smith. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner

Facilities and construction department: Annual Certification of Facilities Data – Florida Inventory of School Houses (FISH) Motion by Marsha Winegarner, second by Kim Kirby. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner. Approval of Freeport High School – New Portable Emergency Generator Enclosure. Motion by Kim Kirby, second by Bill Eddins. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner. School Board Approval of Classroom Portable for Freeport Elementary.  Motion by Gail Smith, second by Marsha Winegarner. 

Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner. School Board Approval of Classroom Portable Lease for West DeFuniak Elementary. 

Motion by Bill Eddins, second by Gail Smith. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner.

Under Administration:  Approval of memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Walton County School Board and Silvercrest Rehab and Nursing Center, to allow the hours for their CTE students.  Motion by Marsha Winegarner, second by Kim Kirby. Final Resolution: Motion Carried Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner. 

Approval of Agreement between the Walton County School Board and Pan-Care of Florida, Inc. Motion by Kim Kirby, second by Marsha Winegarner. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner

Approval of School Calendar and Holiday Schedule for 2020-2021 School Year motion carried unanimously by the board.  Motion by Gail Smith, second by Bill Eddins. Final Resolution: Motion Carried. Ayes: Bill Eddins, Gail Smith, Jason Catalano, Kim Kirby, Marsha Winegarner.

Under School Board: Approval of Payment to Florida School Boards Association (FSBA) for the 2020-2021 Annual Dues.

The following consent agenda items were approved: March 24, 2020 Consent, in which all items were removed because travel is restricted due to the Covid-19 virus. 

The board decided to discuss the action agenda to the end of the meeting: Approval Resolution #1920-14 of the Walton County School Board authorizing the superintendent to take any and all necessary actions to prepare and respond effectively to the novel Coronavirus.  Attorney Larry Dietzen spoke to the importance of such a decision to the board. Dietzen stated that this resolution is limited circumstance to be able to run everyday events. Possible situations may accelerate. It will automatically terminate upon the lifting of the statewide emergency. The superintendent will take every measure to keep the board informed of actions taken during this time. 

Good cause item:  COVID-19 UPDATE. The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) Office, Employee Update, Instruction, and Food Distribution. Discussion:  the board is in different rooms with the exception of Eddins in the board conference room with Hughes.  

Trecia Meadows, Chief Nursing Officer with WCSD Health Services, gave an update to the board on the number of persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, Walton, and the surrounding counties.  Areas within the county have all been in Santa Rosa Beach, five men, and five women all non-residents that are positive at this time.  

Robert Martin addressed the board with the food service plan. Currently, the WCSD had five sites for food services, plus bus routes for additional distribution, 12 buses to cover 71 community stops.  Students will receive breakfast and lunch, and all meals are free.  Sites located within the county are Paxton, Mossy Head, Walton Middle, Maude Saunders, and Freeport High School.  Site eligibility is based on the percentage of students (50% or more) with free and reduced lunched qualify for the program. They are looking at adding sites to the south Walton County area due to the economic changes taken place due to the virus. They are waiting for the state to approve. USDA is holding up the process.  

Another method of trying to reach rural areas is bus delivery system. This process requires workers to check in with nurses daily, answer a CDC guideline survey, and separation of employees with different duties: meals are not made by or near the same employees delivered who are making deliveries, and the disinfectant cleaning has increased.  Social distancing in preparations with packing and assorting with changing gloves every 10-15 min. and then washing hands.

Numbers lunch only yesterday first day- 576 children received lunch with Today: 1006 children today (2012 meals total for today) lunch and breakfast. No one has had a spring break, no complaints, everyone working diligently, and a lot to make this happen with such short notice.  

Jill Smith presented an update on facilities and maintenance. Cleaning and sanitizing have increased as well as limiting those coming into the lobby, allowing only one person in the lobby at a time.  They are also assisting the food preparation and buses with cleaning and sanitizing their areas as well.  

Dr. Hawthorne updated the board on the process of getting information out to the public as quickly as possible. Robo-calls to parents. With written updates almost every day.  Let’s Talk program is accessible on the WCSD website for anyone to ask questions.  Since this innovation, 264 dialogues web-based, Computers to assist any student who needs one.

Crystal Apple with Curriculum and instruction addressed the board: Beginning at home learning March 23.  State Assessments will not be required this year.  Current seniors will not have to pass the Algebra-1 EOC, nor will they have to pass the Tenth Grade FSA for reading.  School accountability grades will be waived; however, student’s grades will not be waived and will continue to receive grades during the online learning portion of the school year.  Encouraging students to read books is based on the staff available and the process with each school to make sure students have books to read.

Superintendent Russell Hughes stated he had two complaints about the process, stating: “One student asked ‘Why can’t we just graduate? Why do we got to do work? We have a virus going on.’ The student doesn’t understand that we have the mandate of standards if we stop instruction now, and they get to college two years from now, and we haven’t covered those standards, we can be sued.”

Hughes added, “Spring break is over.”

Henry Martin on technology:  Began for thanking the team for putting together the virtual meeting space for the board.  Roy Barton, a Microsoft technical manager, a graduate of Paxton High School, has volunteered his time to work with the school board on setting up and assisting with any technical issues for the virtual meeting space. 

Also, mentioning that Microsoft has agreed to pay $ 25 to the school district for every hour Barton works with them

Refurbishing computers: devices are ready to be able to disperse to each school. Wi-Fi environment outside of the school, where parents can access the Wi-Fi in their car, allowing their child to work on there work with Wi-Fi access at the same sites as the lunch program is being offered.  

Candy Bodie, the director of Human Resources with the WCSD, gave an update on the workforce.  Employee concerns:  Working hard to making sure everyone is safe. On March 23, all 12-month employees returned to work. All employees, as well as visitors, are being screened on a daily basis—a CDC guile-lined questionnaire and a temperature check as well as social distancing, masks, and gloves.

“We are encouraging our employees to stay home if they are sick, in the at-risk category, or if they are too scared or uncomfortable to return.” Bodie also states that they are encouraging the supervisors to look at flexible schedules, and allowing anyone who is able to do work from home to do so. If they can’t work remotely then and they will have to take leave.  They are communicating with the union to keep them informed of all decisions.  

Also, Bodie stated that they are looking at bringing back the rest of the employees at some capacity, looking at flexible schedules and creative and innovative yet responsible ways to utilize their employees. They are paying attention to what other districts are doing and possibly even incorporating some professional development or employee cross-training.  

“We are working at keeping everyone employed,” said Hughes.  

Stephanie Hofheinz addressed the board regarding employee pay. The finance department is working hard to 

make sure employees, and vendors are paid. Hofheinz stated that Hughes passed a money-motivation month-which the WCSD has two a year, and March is one of them. The employees will be paid on Friday (March 27) instead of Tuesday, March 31.

Hofheinz said, “I want to say that I appreciate the leadership of Mr. Hughes and the board during this time and our other administrators who have worked tirelessly during spring break to keep our employees safe and to do the right thing.”  

Tripp Hope presented information about activities and transportation. As of March 13, all extracurricular activities have been postponed, looking at the possibility of making up some of those activities once schools are open back up. This is keeping with the CDC guidelines to help decrease contamination.  

Opening the meeting up to public comments: one question was posted in the Q&A thread of the virtual meeting, asked: “Is there a process for volunteers to be vetted, so they can help out?”  Hughes addressed the question, commenting that at this time, they do not have the resources to be able to screen every additional volunteer who helps out but all are encouraged to contact the schools to inquire about further possibilities.  

The board expressed appreciation to their staff and faculty pulling together and working as needed to make the necessary changes to adjust to the crisis.  

The board is looking at the possibility of continuing the virtual meetings and will go forward with next month’s meeting scheduled for April 7, at 5 p.m. at the Tivoli Center.