School Board votes to make masks optional

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Macon County School Board photo by Vickie Carpenter

Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

On Monday, the Macon County Board of Education held its October Board Meeting. On a motion made by Tommy Cabe and seconded by Melissa Evans, the Board unanimously approved to allow students and staff to have the option of wearing a face covering. Since school began, a face covering rule has been in place due to the percentage of positive Covid cases in Macon County. This policy change began Tuesday morning, Oct. 26. The Board of Education will continue to revisit the face covering policy each month. The policy change does not apply to school buses. Face coverings while on all public transportation, including school buses, remain a federal mandate. 

Macon County School Board Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin explained that due to masks being optional, an increase in the number of quarantines is possible.  If a masked child comes into contact with an unmasked child who tests positive for COVID, that masked child, if unvaccinated, would need to be quarantined.  If that child is vaccinated they would simply need to get tested and then retested in 5 to 7 days, thus, avoiding quarantine if the tests are negative.   Dr. Baldwin reiterated several times that neither the School Board nor the Health Department make these rules. They simply have to abide by them.

 Health Department Director Kathy McGaha stated that Macon County is not in the yellow or blue yet. The positivity rate remains at 7.2%. She favored the continuation of the mask mandate. 

The board did approve bringing back temperature sensor machines that would be placed at the entrance to each school, as they were last year. Schools will also offer free COVID testing on site, if a parent, child, or staff desires one. This service would be purely voluntary and will make use of the PCR test which is considered to be very accurate.  Test        results would be available within 24 – 48 hrs after testing. 

Macon Middle renovations ahead of schedule

Macon Schools Personnel Director Todd Gibbs, read a report on the Macon Middle School (MMS) renovation progress. He stated that the work was 60% complete and ahead of schedule. Thought to be fully completed by December 2022, the target completion date is now August 2022.  He also spoke in regard to the MMS irrigation system. The system is old and in need of repair/upgrading. The well located on the property can pump 10,000 gallons of water per day. This water is used to maintain the entire campus.  The well pump is in need of repair.  The cost to replace the pump would be $26,274. It would still pump 10,000 gallons per day, but would be more efficient.  The other option would be to hook up MMS to the municipal city water, which would cost about $11,935, initially.  This would offer unlimited water supply but would cost the school money, per gallon of use.  The board will review the propositions and make a decision as to which way to go. 

MMS will also be having a remote instructional day on Nov. 1.  The renovation company working on the MMS construction project will need to overhaul the HVAC system on that day. Due to the dangerous nature of having a large crane on the campus and for the safety of the students and staff, Principal Dr. Kevin Bailey has requested that day to be virtual. The work is scheduled for that day as long as winds are below 35MPH. The company states they would still work in a rainy situation. 

Franklin High School (FHS) Principal Mickey Noe, has also requested a virtual day for students on Nov. 5, due to having 230 -240 students taking the pre-ACT [American College Testing]. The ACT is a standardized test used for college admissions. In order to make room for those students, FHS would have to clear 14 -15 classrooms and they would also need to shut off the bell system. The principal feels that it would benefit the students and the teachers by having the remainder of the students get their work done virtually that day. He stated that lunch alone would create too much chaos. The board unanimously voted to allow students to work from home that day. 

Child Nutrition Director David Lightner reported that his office was awarded $31,000 through ESSER Funding, to be used as he deems fit. Lightner  petitioned the board to ask if his cafeteria staff could  receive a bonus from the money.  During the 2020 school year his staff was challenged with many obstacles,  due to the pandemic .  They performed superbly, he said, making sure all students received a free breakfast and lunch.  Busses were dispatched to deliver meals to students at bus stops, who would otherwise be unable to get a meal from school, because they were at home learning virtually.  The board approved his request  offering their appreciation for all the cafeteria workers that helped make the nutrition program a success, during the pandemic. 

The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, Nov. 15 , at the Macon County Schools central office.

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