The Laurel County Class of 2021 will have a new venue for commencement exercises this year - moving to the Corbin Arena.
The five members of the Laurel County Board of Education approved Superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett to contact the Arena to schedule this year's event out of the county, but in a facility where more people could attend graduation exercises this year with the COVID-19 restrictions on spacing and large crowds.
Formerly held in the individual school gymnasiums, the event brings standing-room-only crowds every year with the overflow moving into the library and auditorium of the two county high schools and live streamed to those persons. Last year's ceremony only allowed two persons per graduate to attend the ceremony as stricter guidelines on crowd size were in place. That process took nearly a week, with the presentation of diplomas and pre-recorded addresses from valedictorians and salutatorians compiled into a video for graduates since in-person ceremonies were prohibited.
Board member Phillip Bundy said he advocated keeping graduation ceremonies within the county, but with that being impossible this year, he supported the move to Corbin.
"I normally would want to keep it in the county but this is about the kids," he said.
That was seconded by board members Jeff Lewis and Chairman John Begley, with both stating that the situation had changed from its prior routine and that finding a facility large enough to host a larger number of people was essential this year.
Bennett said the last day of school for Laurel County students was May 25, with graduation set for Saturday, May 29. In the unanimous vote, board members approved Bennett to contact the Arena and schedule a date, hopefully as close to the May 29 date as possible. That booking would involve both schools hosting graduation ceremonies on the same day. This year, North Laurel graduates will be the first group to walk the line, followed by South Laurel's ceremony later that day.
Policy 9.31, also known as the "365 Rule," also spurred a detailed discussion, with board members approving the current policy by a 3 to 2 vote. The 365 Rule addresses transfer students as well as inter-district students wishing to leave the school for which they are zoned to attend another school. The discussion centered on whether to allow changes to the current policy, how that could affect staffing, and how waivers can be obtained in certain circumstances to allow such moves.
The 365 Rule addresses athletes wishing to change schools in order to play sports, requiring transfers to sit out for a full year before becoming eligible to participate in athletic events. While some said they understood that some students might receive more playing time by switching schools, the policy often created more problems - thus initiating the "365 Rule." But athletes must also meet the requirements set by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, which also addresses athletic transfers. Board member Ed Jones said that rule came about due to high schools recruiting players in the past.
Board member Joe Karr said he disapproved of leaving the policy as it stands, and cast a no vote, as did board member Ed Jones. Begley, Bundy and Lewis all voted in favor. After more discussion, however, board members added an amendment to the policy, stating that it can be reviewed again for further possible action.
The North Laurel Middle School 6th grade boys basketball team were recognized during Monday's meeting, with each member and coach being presented with a certificate. This team took the KBC championship with an undefeated season of 20-0.
The school district will also see some new positions added to the staffing roster. The board approved hiring two Title I primary teachers at Wyan-Pine Grove Elementary and one Title I teacher at Keavy Elementary. An attendance clerk position at South Laurel High School and Special Education teacher at Bush Elementary were also re-created during Monday's meeting.
Summer staff positions were also approved. Five Preschool teachers, 5 Preschool Assistants and 5 speech therapists were approved for up to 20 days each. Ten district summer student worker positions were also approved.
Board members also approved a contract with Cloyd & Associates PSC for the 2020-2021 audit and the 2021-2022 daily school schedule. Bennett said the hiring of Cloyd & Associates was the final year of a three-year contract but that the company had done "a consistently good job" with prior audits. The 2021-2022 school schedule shows little change, he added.
Other actions approved were:
• Contract modification for all Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSC) for fiscal year 2021
• Disclosure of Free and Reduced Price Information Agreement for 2021-2022 school year
• Reciprocal Non-Resident contract with Rockcastle County schools for 2021-2022 school year.