Kyle Becker was reelected as president of the Abilene Board of Education and Chris West was elected vice-president unanimously at the regular meeting of the board on Monday.

With the school board elections moved to November, the board approved a resolution to move the election of officers to January.

COVID-19

Superintendent Greg Brown reported that COVID-19 has significantly impacted the district’s expenses for substitute teachers and teacher aides.

“Although our teachers are able to teach remotely when they are placed in quarantine, substitute teachers are needed to supervise the classroom.,” Brown said.

He said spending on substitute teachers was at $73,569.71, up $31,000.

“That is quite a jump but that is where we are in life right now,” Brown said.

However, Brown said Congress approved a COVID relief bill and Abilene is expected to receive an estimated $854,285.

“It is money that will come directly to the school system,” he said. “That is going to be a good thing for us. We have the expenses with the substitutes. I believe we will have some expenses as we address the learning considerations.”

Brown said the district has three years to spend it.

Brown said because of COVID considerations, the kindergarten to grade 5 buildings restructured what the teaching staff was doing in handling remote learning.

“By either shifting students to another section or providing some additional time for one or more of the teachers to pick up some of those responsibilities related to remote student supervision,” he said. “So we did not hire an additional person at the K-5 level at this point.”

At Abilene Middle School Janelle Reidy was hired as a remote learning specialist.

Abilene High School Principal Ben Smith said there has been some discussion of having a “go to” person to check in with the students in quarantine.

“Checking in to make sure their health was doing OK, that they were practicing good executive functioning, are able to utilize time, schedule their time, prioritize. Things like that,” he said.

He said he has visited with a retired teacher that has expressed interest in filling that position.

Brown said that virtual programs are in place for students in grades 6 through 12.

“We’ve made that transition completely,” he said.

Response act

The board also unanimously approved extending the Coronavirus Response Act, which had expired, through the rest of the school year. FFCRA required employers to provide 80 hours paid sick leave under certain circumstances.

“We agreed with the staff that we would not hold them personally responsible with their sick leave, etc., if they encountered anything to deal with additional days out of the classroom because of COVID-19,” Brown said.

Brown mentioned the vitamin drive that provided 300 vitamin bags for the employees at the school.

“To help our folks that are in the trenches at our schools,” he said.

“That is a great effort and greatly appreciated,” he said. “That is greatly appreciated that we have the community support in our school system as we battle this COVID-19 deal.”

Brown also said that Dr. Brian Holmes, Dickinson County Health officer, took steps to help the teaching staff and employees schedule the COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible.

Superintendent Greg Brown reported that January was School Board Recognition Month.

“I would like to take just a moment to thank all of you for the work that you do for our community,” Brown said. “I certainly appreciate the way that you lead as school board members.”

Programs

Brown updated the board on two new programs, Creating Entrepreneurial Opportunities

for the high school students and the preschool program.

Becker said the CEO is a county-wide program that is put together by a group of investors and does not cost the school district.

“It’s a collaborative effort between Herington, Solomon, Chapman and Abilene. Hope has been invited but this year we have not had anyone from Hope apply,” he said.

He said students meet at 7:30 a.m. every day and work through real-world business issues.

He said area business leaders mentor the students.

“The hope is that they realize there is a network within Dickinson County where you can really do about anything you can do in the world,” Becker said. “Obviously the world has gotten smaller with technology.”

Brown also reported on the preschool program which he visits in the mornings.

“That has really been an interesting program to watch and be a part of,” Brown said. “It’s really cool to see how the preschool students have grown in their dynamics of going to school and working toward doing some learning.”

He said he worked as a teacher aide for two hours.

“That may have been the longest two hours of my life,” he said.

He said he is amazed at the preschool teachers.

“They have to keep it rolling,” he said. “Those little ones, their attention span is not long.”

“I do think it is going to be a positive transition when they go to kindergarten next year,” said Twyla Spouse, Kennedy Elementary principal.

The board also approved on 5-0 votes:

• A 1 year extension of all administration contacts to make them 2 year contracts.

• A $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Dickinson County for the summer science program.

• Reducing the preschool fee from $325 to $300 per month for the rest of the school year because of a reduction of one day of instruction per month.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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