Agreements with various post-secondary educational programs will benefit the Laurel County School District, as approved by school board members during Monday evening's bimonthly meeting.

The largest monetary amount involving the school system is the GEAR Up program, which distributes $1 million per year to the local school system to assist students from low-income households in preparing for college and post-high school training.

GEAR Up is an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs and has been one of the largest and more effective programs focusing on assisting those students from low income families to prepare for college. Its goals are to increase expectations and readiness for students, improving high school graduation rates and college enrollment, and increasing the knowledge of students on their options following high school graduation.

Schools whose student population is at least 50 percent qualifying for free and reduced meals are eligible to be part of the GEAR Up program, according to the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships website.

Superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett said the Laurel County school district receives $1 million per year to prepare students to improve their educational and vocational options after high school.

"Students get grant money that helps them explore their college and career paths and educational programs," Bennett said. "We receive about $1 million a year for that."

Board members also approved agreements for two other programs.

Those programs include a partnership with Murray State University for dual credit for high school students and an agreement with the Berea College School of Nursing to allow nursing students to obtain their observation hours at Laurel County schools.

North Laurel High School's football field will soon be seeing the first stages of installation of the artificial turf that will improve the quality of the field.

Bennett explained that the board had to approve the first phase of that project, which will be sent on to the Kentucky Department of Education for final approval. Bennett said the amount for that project is $883,587 but that installation of the new turf would not upset the schedule for field usage.

"This is just the first phase of the project and will not interrupt any football games," he said. "The completion of the project will depend on the weather."

South Laurel High's football field is slated to undergo the same revision during the next school year of 2020-2021.

Board members also gave their final approval for the 2019-2020 tax rates, which will remain the same as last year's rates. Those were to have 49 cents per $100 assessed value on real estate, 49 cents per $100 value for personal property and 46.3 cents per $100 assessed value for motor vehicle tax. Those rates underwent a first reading earlier this year with Monday's approval given after the school system held a public hearing as required by Kentucky law.

Other actions included:

• Approved agreement with London City Police to provide two School Resource Officers (SROs) for the upcoming school year. Bennett added that the security detail also includes 16 LEOSA (Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act) personnel who are trained in responses to emergency situations.

• Approved agreement with KCEOC Head Start for the 2019-2020 school year.

• Approved fee rates for South Laurel High School for yearbook, cap and gown, locker fees and other items. North Laurel has not yet submitted their fee rates.

• Approved re-creating a 7-hour cook/baker position at Hunter Hills Elementary, an Arts and Humanities teacher at Colony Elementary, and nurse school position for the school district.

• Approved creation of an Educational Interpreter position for the school district.

The Laurel County School District board of education meetings are held on the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 5 p.m. in the Central Office located across from London Elementary School.

njohnson@sentinel-echo.com

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