School officials express concern about possible extension of closures

Haleyville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Holly Sutherland briefs the board of education about concerns over the state possibly extending the closure of schools due to the coronavirus. Also shown, from left, Board President Donna Jones, Chief School Financial Officer Candy Marbutt. In the background are Central Office Secretary Judy Thompson and Dr. Bill Bishop, director of administrative services.

HALEYVILLE  - School officials are expressing concern that the closure of schools due to the Coronavirus or COVID-19 will be extended past the April 6 deadline, which would result in multiple complications administrators and staff would have to address.
“We are all under a heightened sense of just concern and treading some waters we have never been in before,” Haleyville City Schools Superintendent Dr. Holly Sutherland said at the board of education’s regular meeting Tuesday, March 17.
Currently, the state department of education is recommending school systems not to schedule any events or have anything made up by April 30, Dr. Sutherland informed board members.
“That gives me the indication that  they are probably concerned if we make it back by April 6,” Dr. Sutherland pointed out.
A memo was therefore sent out to HCS teachers, she noted. The closure of schools was ordered Friday, March 13, by Governor Kay Ivey due to the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
For such local systems as HCS and Winston County Schools, that means the 2 1/2 weeks of closure will include a week that had already been figured into the calendar for spring break, school officials noted.
If the closure is extended, school officials will be looking to adjust the schedules, for example, allowing special education teachers to communicate with students via call-ins, when help is needed and accommodations provided.
“If we extend this thing seven or eight weeks, we will have to look into some things, as far as what that looks like for our seniors, what that looks like for the next school  year, as far as compacting  instruction,” Dr. Sutherland said.
“All of this is brand new,” she continued. 
Concerning the multitude of memos and emails constantly being updated by the state department, Dr. Sutherland said HCS was doing all they could to “dot very I and cross every T.” 
The school district fed students each two breakfasts and two lunches at pickup lines at the high school both on Monday and Wednesday, making sure that students had enough food to cover the time period between when local schools dismissed after school Monday and the state mandatory dismissal date beginning Thursday.
During just Monday, HCS provided 1,500 meals with several hundred meals left to provide on Wednesday, Dr. Sutherland said.
Foods that are not distributed Wednesday were to be declared surplus, only after which  arrangements would be made for school staff to deliver those meals to those in need in the community, Dr. Sutherland explained.
 After Wednesday’s distribution of meals, HCS would not post for a while about meals. “We  just don’t know what the longevity of this looks like after spring break,” Dr. Sutherland said. 
“We are not able to feed during spring break, anyway, because that is a normal school break,” she added. 
School officials will hopefully have enough information by the end of spring break week March 23-27, as to how to proceed with plans.
“If it continues to trend like it is, I think it is going to be very serious for our community,” Dr. Sutherland said.
“We have encouraged  parents hopefully to keep kids at home but usually that has to come from a mandated effort unfortunately from the government saying you can’t get out,” she continued.
Emma Ann Hallman, director of the HCS Child Nutrition Program and her staff, were commended by Dr. Sutherland for the wonderful job they did preparing hundreds of meals to be ready for distribution last Monday and Wednesday.
“We fed over 240 kids in the line in front of the high school (Monday, March 16), just 675 people total got bags...It was overall an amazing effort by Emma Ann,” Dr. Sutherland continued.
Board President Donna Jones noted the reason lessons cannot be currently done online is because many students do not have adequate internet access.
 “Two reasons,” Dr. Sutherland responded, “One is not all students have access to the internet or to that information. Two,  if we provide instruction that is mandatory or that is graded or has to be done for general education, then we have to provide accommodations and support and services for our special education population.”
Dr. Sutherland noted that hopefully the ongoing installation of Freedom Fiber broadband or high speed internet service in the area, would help the situation.
“We’re just in unchartered waters,” board member Kris Burleson noted. “We’ve never faced anything like this.”
Among other business, Ray Forester addressed the board thanking them for all of their support of the Mark Forester Foundation, named in honor of his son, a Senior Airman who was killed in the line of duty 2010 in Afghanistan.
This marks the 10th year of the Mark Forester Foundation, with 25 scholarships and numerous contributions made to the school system during that time, amounting to over $100,000, Forester informed.
The annual Mark Forester Race, held at the HCS campuses, is scheduled for May 16, but the date is in question due to the uncertainty of the corornavirus and its effects on the state, Forester informed.
“We need to decide soon, because some people have already registered,” he pointed out. “We’ve got to let people know.”
Among board regular business, the retirement of Elizabeth Noble as center of technology teacher was approved effective June 1.
“We congratulation Ms. Noble on her retirement, and are every excited about her next chapter,” Dr. Sutherland pointed out. “I think she is going to spend more time with her grandchildren and those types of things.”
Among regular board business, the board approved February financial statements and board expenditures of $1,417,114.27 as well as high school fees, supplements and charges.
The board also approved the purchase of two 2021 Blue Bird 72-passenger type C school buses from BusWorx off of the Sourcewell Purchasing Cooperative for $85,267 each for a total of $170,534 for both buses.
A new serving line for the elementary school lunchroom was approved to the lowest bidder Hotel and Restaurant Supply for $69,908.
The following fundraisers were approved: Elementary Kindness and Compassion Club to raise money for cancer research/family needs for patients at St. Jude’s Hospital for April 6-21;
High school golf to have Krispy Kreme card fundraiser April 1-14; High school volleyball to host middle school volleyball camp June 17-19 and elementary PE classes to sell Field Day shirts April 1-15.
Amendments to the substitute teacher and lunchroom substitute lists were also approved.
The next meeting of the Haleyville Board of Education will be Tuesday, April 28, 7 p.m. at the high school board room.


See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.
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