By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
There was some good news for football fans during the Carter County Board of Education’s regular meeting last week, but it was bittersweet. Superintendent of schools Dr. Ronnie Dotson announced that all winter sports were being cancelled, along with all in person instruction, as the state struggles to get a grip on rising COVID-19 numbers. This doesn’t include football though, which is currently in the midst of state championship playoffs.
Dotson said the district would continue to allow the East and West Carter teams, both of which made the playoffs this year, to continue playing as long as possible because “if they drop out, they lose their opportunity.”
There are no make-up games for them if they choose not to continue now, he explained. But for sports that have not started yet, he said, seasons will not begin until the state gets COVID-19 numbers under control, and may not be played at all. While acknowledging the disappointment student athletes may feel at this decision, Dotson said Carter County and other school districts must comply with these recommendations.
Dotson said the district will also shift back to non-traditional instruction for all students and that staff will have the flexibility to work from home if they choose to do so. While staff may still choose to come into school buildings to conduct their online classes and plan their lessons, if they come in they will be required to practice social distancing and follow all Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocols.
“The most prudent thing, right now, is to have as few people as possible in one place,” Dotson told the school board.
He said he does regret that they have to make this move, especially for children who have been benefitting from small group instruction. But, he said, the district and its students have continued to excel during the pandemic. He noted that both East Carter High School and Carter City Elementary have been recognized recently in various media for their academic success. He also said he needed to give a “shout out” to Olive Hill Elementary for their recent Veterans Day program.
“They did a tremendous job,” he said, noting that it was all the more impressive considering the entire event was organized completely online.
He said the district is also looking at getting flags and banners for Carter City for their recognition this year as a Blue Ribbon school. He said the district would also get flags and banners for Star Elementary, which was recognized as a Blue Ribbon school previously but never received any sort of banner or flag to signify the distinction on the outside of the school building.
The district also heard a report on the audit, which showed that the school’s finances were all in order.
“It’s been a very clean year for y’all,” said auditor Les Harbour.
In other action the board moved to award bids for surplus items. These included three ovens from West Carter High School, and school buses which have already been stripped of parts.
Because of the low scrap prices the district has found it to be more economical to hold onto old buses in recent years and to salvage usable parts from them for repairs to other buses. The buses that were sold as surplus were already “parted out,” and were now “just shells of buses” Director of Maintenance and Transportation Ronnie Cooley explained.
The board also moved to award the contract for repairing storm damage to the roof of East Carter Middle School. The board moved to award that contract to Grayson based M&M Construction, who had the lowest bid.
In other board action they moved forward with a contract with Labtronics on the use of radio towers that serve the radio systems for the buses. The board has been operating on the same towers since 1990 without a contract, but wants to cement that agreement because, Cooley said, they “really can’t do without the towers.”
He noted that there are still large areas of the county where cell phone service is unreliable. In those areas, he said, the district really needs the use of radios in case of any sort of bus break down or emergency. The board voted to move forward with that contract.
The board also approved the purchase of four new school buses. They purchased four last year as well, Cooley said, acting on state recommendations for keeping the bus fleet up to date. Pricing on the buses is up by $2,850 each this year over last year, for buses with all the same amenities, Cooley said, noting that the pricing is controlled by the state. These options include the tinted windows, which help with controlling the temperature during hotter months, as well as security cameras.
Cooley told the board that “for the last several years we’ve had cameras,” on all new bus purchases.
The board will continue to meet via teleconference, and will broadcast those meetings via YouTube to the board website, for the foreseeable future.
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