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November 23rd, 2020

carter school board 3 23 20Dr. Todd Carter briefly talks to the USD 480 school board during one of the action items on the board’s agenda Monday evening. Discussion during the meeting focused heavily on making sure students throughout the district are still taken care of despite not attending school in the buildings due to the coronavirus. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


School districts throughout Kansas and the rest of the country are having to adjust to a new normal after the announcement from Gov. Laura Kelly to shut down all K-12 school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to concerns with the coronavirus pandemic situation. 

During its most recent meeting Monday evening, the USD 480 school board passed a pair of measures to help students and teachers as the situation continues, beginning with a resolution to suspend graduation requirements for the Class of 2020, which was unanimously approved. The resolution itself states “Be it resolved that all credit requirements above and beyond those minimum required credits set by the Kansas State Department of Education, which are contained in Board of Education Policy IHF, adopted in 1997 (revised 2016), be suspended for the graduating class of 2020. Students must meet all standards set out in K.A.R. 91-31-35, unless otherwise modified by the Kansas State Board of Education or the Kansas State Department of Education, to qualify for graduation in May 2020.”

“Dr. Watson wanted a resolution adopted to temporarily suspend graduation requirements currently in place throughout the state,” USD 480 Superintendent Renae Hickert said. “And this is something that included input from teachers and counselors and so many other school professionals because we want our students to finish, so we’d like to see this resolution passed. We’ve been looking at the transcripts of the senior class and there are some of them who are technically already done and won’t have any problems as far as this situation. And as long as the basic requirements are met with math and English and those core classes, those students will be fine and won’t have to be worried about that. These are definitely odd times for us for sure.”

“Is there way we could also give these students some sort of ACT prep? Because I know that’s the next step for a lot of students, and they obviously won’t be able to go through that with everything that’s going on,” Board President Alan Brown said, to which Hickert said some things are being looked into with that.

The board also unanimously approved a resolution regarding wage payments during the emergency school closings. The resolution itself states “WHEREAS, the board is authorized to expend funds of the U.S.D. 480 Liberal for purposes necessary in the conduct of the public schools as determined by the board; WHEREAS, the board acknowledges that during an emergency closing, most district employees are instructed not to report for work; WHEREAS, the board finds that a need exists to address wage payments for employees who are idled resulting from an order by the {Superintendent/board/Kansas Governor Laura Kelly/Seward County Health Department} in conjunction with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas State Department of Education resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020; WHEREAS, the board determines that employees who are instructed not to report to work may suffer a loss of pay if the district or its attendance centers are closed; WHEREAS, the Kansas Legislature has declared in House Substitute for Senate Bill 142 its intent that any school district applying for a waiver of the mandatory school term under K.S.A. 72-3117, and amendments thereto, shall continue to pay all current hourly employees during times of closure; and WHEREAS, the board concludes that continuing wage payments to all regular employees, both salaried and hourly, who suffer a loss in pay due to an emergency closing serves the public purposes of maintaining morale, reducing turnover, and ensuring continuity of district staffing when schools reopen; Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Education of Unified School District 480 Liberal authorizes continued wage payments to all regular employees, including regular salaried and hourly employees and employees under current contract with the board who are instructed not to report to work on days they would otherwise be required to be working during an emergency closing.”

“So for those who are still working in the buildings, will they be getting extra pay?” Board Vice President Sarah Foreman asked. 

“Not through this resolution, they’ll be getting paid like normal because we want to be sure each department is on even footing,” Hickert said. 

“This is basically like disaster pay and we’re also waiting to see if any federal money will be coming our way because of this situation,” USD 480 Director of Business Jerry Clay said.

During board comments at the end of the meeting, the board members praised the work done by USD 480 teachers and other staff for the work put in during the current times in order to ensure students in the still have the chance to learn. 

“This is a time of a lot of a lot of uncertainty and unknowns, and I think the administration should be congratulated from doing as great a job as they have given what’s going on,” board member Mike Brack said. “I’ve not heard from anyone they felt they were out of the loop with this situation, and that speaks volumes.”

“Especially with the meals being served, I can’t think of a way it could be done any better than it already is,” Foreman said. “They’re doing that very, very well. And something else that’s great is the LACF and the library are also giving the students activity bags to take home with them, which are also really great.”

“I agree with everything everyone’s said already, but it does make me a little sad this is happening because there’s a long list of seniors I was hoping to hand diplomas to this year, including my twins,” board member Nick Hatcher said. “There was the possibility I’d be able to do that with all four of my children, but I’m very proud of everything the district’s doing and how the district is handling everything that’s going on.”

In other business, the board unanimously approved a $205,285.50 bid from Tek Style Audio and Security for the addition of 126 cameras throughout USD 480 buildings. The board also unanimously approved a $839,793 bid from French Construction to convert the kitchens at Sunflower Elementary School and Cottonwood Elementary School to full-cook kitchens, and unanimously approved the renewal of NWEA for the 2020-2021 school year in the amount of $42,500.

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