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Students at East Bernstadt Independent School will have options this upcoming school year - they can attend classes in-person with safety measures in place or parents can choose to continue the Non-Traditional Instruction and keep their children at home.

That decision came during Thursday night's regular meeting of board members with Superintendent Vicki Jones, who stated that the in-person classes at the school will begin on Thursday, Aug. 6.

But those who attend in-person classes will have certain criteria to meet - including having their temperatures taken before they are dropped off at school or when boarding the bus, wearing masks during school and keeping social distance during the day. If a child boarding the bus shows an elevated temperature and no parent is present to take the child from the bus stop, a bus monitor will isolate the child from other children then contact the school so the child can be picked up there. Jones said the school is trying to order masks for the students who do attend in-person classes but are encouraging parents to send their child to school with masks.

"We're going to present a plan to the parents and for those who don't want to send their children to school, we will offer the online with NTI," she explained. "We will also have NTI packets for those who don't have Internet, but we're working on trying to get a 'hot spot' where they can go to have Internet access."

Other methods will be to train students on how to use Chromebooks and issue those to students who do not have computers at home.

Jones added that estimating how many students will attend in-person classes will be determined through online signups but will not be known officially until the first day of school.

"We just thought the best option was to give parents a choice," she added.

MAP testing - which was not conducted last spring due to in-person classes being dismissed as the Coronavirus pandemic loomed - will be conducted during the first weeks of this year to determine the achievements by students.

Jones added that math textbooks, workbooks and reading books will also be purchased for use in school and at home to help build student skills and close achievement gaps.

But preparing for what may happen next with the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the students' educational opportunities has been foremost on the minds of school officials, with Finance Officer Amy Brown telling board members that new furniture has been ordered to accommodate the social distancing requirements. Brown said the school district has ordered individual desks rather than using tables to maintain social distancing. Additional cleaning procedures and materials have been incorporated into the daily routine to ensure the safety of students and staff.

The East Bernstadt school district also received increased funding from Title I funds, with Brown stating the district received $159,000 for the upcoming year as opposed to an excess of $80,000 last year. She explained that Title I funding is based on the census data. The additional funding will help with the purchase of textbooks since the state does not provide funding at this time.

While the recent construction projects at the school did incorporate many new safety features, updating for new safety precautions in another expense. Brown said that new door locks had been installed - locks that would allow for exit from the classroom with automatically locking doors. Another safety measure is adding a film on the cafeteria windows, classroom doors and gymnasium doors to prevent someone from looking inside the school.

Board members also approved declaring some surplus items which can be found on the East Bernstadt School's webpage. Those items include two storage buildings, a milk cooler and cafeteria equipment. Bids can be placed online and the bidding will end on Friday, July 17.

Jones also reported several new hires, including a student teacher from last year to a full time teacher. The director of the Family Resource Center, who served as a substitute teacher last year, was approved for hire. Advertisements for a FRC secretary will be posted with the retirement of the previous secretary.

The board then went into executive session for the purpose of the Superintendent evaluation. The results of that evaluation can be found in a separate story.

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