WCSD talks about the first days of school and South Walton High School athletic projects [PREMIUM]

SCREENSHOT of the South Walton High School Baseball Field project plans.

Story by STACY MARTIN 

The first Walton County School Board meeting of the 20-21 school year took place Tuesday at the Walton County School District Tivoli Complex.  All board members were present with Gail Smith attending virtually via the Microsoft Teams platform.  

The meeting started with the presentation by Cenergistic with the presentation of the Energy Conservation Award. The partnership focused on reducing the district’s energy consumption and carbon footprint. Over ten years the WCSD Co2 emissions were reduced by the volume equivalent of 11 million miles of driving, eliminated the greenhouse effect by omitting 16 tons of toxic waste; the amount emitted greenhouse effect is enough to run an entire house for 75 years. In all 872,000 trees and 9.5 million dollars was saved by energy reduction over ten years.  

In the next announcement, Superintendent Russel Hughes recognized the St. Joe foundation as the nominated winner of the 2020 Florida Commissioners Business Recognition award. Hughes stated the award was sponsored by the FDOE in partnership with the Florida Education Foundation, which honors those business partners who help enhance education in their area by contributions to schools and students.  The St. Joe Foundation granted $227,000 for the WCSD’s Magnet Innovation Center in Watersound.  St. Joe made an additional $50,000 investment for books and technology to Dune Lakes Elementary School. The award grants the WCSD with $5,000.  

The board approved the agenda and consent agenda and moved on to the action agenda.  The first item was a request to advertise amendments to school board rules/policies: 3.40, 5.20, and 8.10.  The board pulled policy 5.20 for review but kept the policy in the vote for advertising. A motion was made by Board member Bill Eddins and seconded by Marsha Winegarner.  Motion carried unanimously. 

The transportation department requested approval of bus stops for the 2020-2021 school year.  Hughes said the bus routes were still being created and updated through Sunday night, as parents were making changes and adjustments to their schooling preference.  Hughes recommended the request and a motion was made by Board member Kim Kirby and seconded by Gail Smith.  The vote passed unanimously. 

The next items were from the finance department, which requested the approval of Seaside Neighborhood School & Foundation June Financial Reports. The board voted unanimously for approval. 

From the human resources department came a request for the approval of Aug. 18, 2020, personnel recommendations and personnel addendum. The board voted unanimously with the approving motion made by Kirby and seconded by Eddins.

Next was a good cause item for the approval of summer employment – 5th revision which included the food services provided during the summer bridge program and paid for through the CARES Act funds. A motion to approve was made Eddins and seconded by Kirby.  The motion carried unanimously.  

The last item from human resources was the approval of bonus for currently active SPICE OPS workers who assisted with food preparation and distribution during the COVID-19 Pandemic mandatory school closures. A motion was made by Winegarner and seconded by Eddins with the motion carrying unanimously.  

The curriculum and instruction department requested approval of the 2020-2021 Professional Learning Catalog.  Approval for the request was granted unanimously with a motion from Kirby and second from Winegarner. 

Next was a request for approval of the CARES Act Governor’s Emergency Education Relief’s Summer Recovery Program (GEERS) Project Application.  A motion for approval was made by Winegarner and seconded by Smith. Final resolution: motion carried.

Next on the agenda was a recommendation for the approval of the 2020-2021 Title I, Part A Project Application which the board approved unanimously.  

Another request was for the approval of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) Project Application Project amount: $2,025,806.48.  A motion for approval was made by Winegarner and seconded by Eddins, with the motion carrying unanimously.  

Hughes then requested approval of the amendment to 2020-2021 K12 online educational products and services order.  A motion was made by Kirby and seconded by Eddins, with the board approving the request unanimously.  

The last item was for approval of the Walton County School District innovative reopening plan. The board approved the request unanimously with a motion from Eddins and a second from Winegarner.   

The facilities and construction department recommended school board approval of the educational plant five year survey 2020.  According to the agenda notes, “Every five years the Florida Department of Education, Office of Educational Facilities conducts an Educational Plant Five-Year Survey (EPS)to gather information to determine the needs of educational facilities over the next five years.  FDOE conducts the EPS review process on a district-wide basis and the information collected is used to help maintain an accurate inventory list of educational facilities, as well as, assist with educational facilities planning/construction, maintenance, and budgeting decisions.” FDOE created a list of recommendations for each of the school’s facilities in WCSD. A majority of the recommendations for repair have already been put in place or are in the plans for future maintenance. A motion for approval was made by Kirby and seconded by Eddins.  The board approved the request unanimously.   

Next from the facilities and construction department were two items concerning South Walton High School (SWHS).  The first update was in regard to the new SWHS football fieldhouse project update.  The WCSD Director of Facilities Jill Smith, along with Culpepper Architects and Civil Engineers were present to address updates on the project for the last five months, which include a makeover to the old field house and a new color scheme that will help tie the two buildings together. 

The presentation continued with the SWHS baseball complex design and projected cost change for discussion from the group.  

The project design includes new stormwater improvements, resolving the site drainage and field saturation issues, field and perimeter lighting improvements, locker room facilities, and a rear service drive for maintenance crews. However; the site itself needed to be raised at a higher level than what was first anticipated and budgeted for, and some other bids were reported to the board as being above market rate. The architects presenting the project to the board stated that once the bids were compiled, the total came to $8,024,595. A matrix was compiled with over 40 line items from the project for the board to review and consider where cuts could be made in order to make the project more economically feasible. With some potential alterations and eliminations, the matrix shows a cost reduction to $6,045,562 with keeping the turf synthetic instead of natural turf.  Board members discussed the unfortunate timing and the market of this moment that is a factor in the cost of the structure, and time will be needed to contemplate where reductions should be made.  

Was a request for approval of Exhibit A- AIA A133 for West DeFuniak Elementary re-roof guaranteed maximum price (GMP).  A motion was made by Kirby and second by WInegarner with the motion carrying unanimously by the board.  

Last item from the Facilities and Construction department, was the approval of a work order for construction management at risk services to Childers Construction Co. for the construction of the new welding and HVAC building at ECTC.  The motion for approval was made by Kirby and seconded by Smith.  The board voted in approval of the request unanimously.  

The board then received a COVID-19 update from School Safety Specialist Charlie Morse.  Morse reported the current COVID-19 positive tests for Walton County being at the time of the meeting, 1,506 with 18 deaths with a daily positivity rate at 12.8%.  Morse also informed the board that the safety plan that has been put in place is working, and while that plan is fluid, they will continue to monitor and make changes as necessary.  Hughes then added that over the past two days (first two days of school opening) he visited several schools and noted that about 95% to 98% of students are wearing masks. A total of 83.8% of students are enrolled in the traditional brick and mortar with the number increased the second day of school.  A total of 918 students are enrolled in ILDA and 561 are enrolled in WaltonVirtual, and 7,655 students enrolled in the traditional classroom.   Hughes stated that many parents chose to keep their children out the first day, monitoring the reopening process, and many may be out longer.  Tripp Hope filled in to give another update on the classroom attendance percentage.  On the first day of school, 85.9% of students in brick and mortar,  6% ILDA, and Walton Virtual were at 5%.  In one day the percentage changed but not the numbers to 83.8% for traditional classrooms, ILDA went to 9%, and Walton Virtual at 6%.  Total student check-in count on the first day was 8,605 with an increase to 9134 on Tuesday.  Hope stated that just under 900 students are still missing or unaccounted for, but factoring in the students who are homeschooled (an estimated 7% of the total district numbers), the estimated number of students who are not in the system is around 300 – 400.    

Hope also gave an update on the athletics programs.  On Aug. 24, fall sports practice will begin in the county which includes cross country, volleyball, and football for high school. Middle school fall sports will be cross country, football, and girls basketball.  Official sports competitions may begin the week of Aug. 31 -Sept. 4.  

With the help of Morse, Hope stated that guidelines are being developed for the schools hosting home athletic events.  

There were no public comments or even anonymous questions through the Teams Platform, so the board continued to closing comments.  The WCSD attorney’s report included information about the other districts in Florida that opened schools last week.  Most of them reporting that many students are still missing from the district or unaccounted for the first week but have shown up during the second week. 

The board thanked the various faculty and staff for all their work through the changes which stemmed from the pandemic.  Hughes stated that the first two days of school have gone well with students excited to be back in the classroom, and a majority of the students complying with the changes without difficulty.  

Hughes then made a request to hold a capital projects workshop to discuss the capital projects and the South Walton High School project on Sept. 1 at 3:45 p.m. in the Tivoli Complex.  A motion for approval was made by Kirby and seconded by Eddins.  The motion carried.  Immediately after the capital projects workshop, the board will hold an executive session.  

The next school board meeting will be held on Sept. 1, at 5 pm, at location to be determined.