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School officials prepare for classes

By Jennifer L. Williams 

For the FCT 

The Hartselle City Schools Board of Education met in a special session July 29 to tie up loose ends before the start of classes Aug. 10.  

“We have all been very busy getting ready for the start of the school year,” said Superintendent Dr. Dee Dee Jones, “but now our buildings are ready, and our main concern is making sure our students and staff are safe and ready to go.” 

Jones said she and other area school superintendents continue to closely monitor recommendations from the state government, school board and health department but are proceeding as planned for the school year. 

Roughly 85 percent of students in the district will be attending classes in person. Jones said she’s not sure if the recent extension of the mask mandate statewide will affect those numbers, but the system is prepared regardless.  

Students will return to school on a staggered schedule: Only those with last names starting with A-K will come to school Aug. 10, and only students with last names starting L-Z will come to school Aug. 11. All students will attend starting Aug. 12.  

This is to have time to instruct students at each school of the new procedures and expectations for this new school year. 

Students at the high school will have new thermal scanners at each entrance and will be required to be scanned before entering the building. Each scanner will be manned by school personnel. If a student scans hot, he or she will be sent to the nurse, who has separate areas for students coming in with fever or other COVID-19 symptoms and those coming in for other reasons.  

Other schools in the district will be doing spot checks of student temperatures throughout the day.  

SUBSTITUTES NEEDED 

The board approved several personnel changes, including additional substitute teachers for the year. Officials noted additional substitutes will be needed at every position – from teachers and bus drivers to cafeteria workers and school nurses. Those interested in serving as substitutes this year can stop by the central office at 305 College St. NE to fill out an application and to consent to the required background checks. 

An additional eight out-of-district students were approved by the board, bringing the total number of out-of-district students to 763. Bradley Colburn, chief school financial officer, said that number is about the same as last year, given the number of out-of-district students who graduated or moved.  

NEW TECHNOLOGIES 

The district’s teachers and instructors are each getting a new MacBook Air computer to help record and handle the online portion of their lessons this year. These were purchased with federal funding through the CARES Act.  

“We will be ‘teaching’ teachers how to record their lessons and use these new computers,” said Jones. Classes were originally scheduled to begin this week, but the additional time will now be spent helping every staff member get prepared for the new year – both in the classroom and online. 

Students starting the year online will each receive Chromebook to use at home.  

The system also is adding a platform to help with the online instruction of the district’s students with special needs. 

OTHER ACTIONS 

  • The Board approved the installation of replacement outdoor canopies at the junior high and new canopies by the bus lanes at the high school. 
  • The Board approved the resurfacing of the parking lot at Barkley Bridge Elementary School.  
  • The Board approved a new employee assistance program that will give every staff member, their spouses and children up to age 26 access to a hotline to discuss anything from mental health to financial help. The system is already being used by other districts, including Morgan County Schools, and is a wonderful resource to offer for employees, said Dana Gladden, counselor at Hartselle High School. 

The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Aug. 18 at the central office.