More than 150 community members, faculty and students attended the Sedalia School District 200 Board of Education meeting Monday evening to comment and listen as the board discussed the district’s re-entry plan for the 2020-21 school year.

More than 50 individuals addressed the board and administrators for more than two hours during the meeting at the Heckart Center for the Performing Arts at Smith-Cotton High School.

While some expressed opinions on the merits to wear or not a mask as school reopens, the majority of those present expressed their desire to have the district's children return to their respective buildings this fall. 

Board members were presented three tentative plans as the district considers a return to school Sept. 1. Those plans include a seated and in-person plan where all students in grades kindergarten through 12 will be physically in school. The second is a blended plan with students in grades kindergarten through 12 in two cohort groups labeled “S” and “C.” Students will attend physically only two days a week, each group alternating days. One day will be completely virtual. The third plan calls for all virtual classes. Plans one and two as presented will require masks by students, faculty and staff. 

Superintendent Steve Triplett thanked those present for their attendance and comments. 

“These are the types of conversations that never stop,” Triplett said following the discussion. “These are the things that both myself and the administrative team think about every day. We are trying to keep our kids in school.” 

Triplett emphasized he and the district will “play by the rules.” He noted if the district resumes school and is forced to close the buildings and return to virtual classes, all activities including sports and extracurricular activities will stop, according to Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) guidelines. 

“I truly believe tonight was good,” Triplett commented. “I ask for your prayers, your grace and understanding as we move forward through these difficult times together.” 

Triplett told the Democrat via email prior to the meeting the district took many factors into consideration when developing the proposed protocols.

"We took many factors into account as we drew up our return-to-school plans regarding the coronavirus,” Triplett explained. “We consulted with county health officials and other area superintendents; we also took into account our in-house surveys of district parents and staff members and looked at what other districts in Missouri and across the nation are doing to try to return to school in ways that are safe for students and employees. After gathering that information, we pulled together what we believe are the most workable options for our circumstances for our board to consider."

The district asked parents to respond to an online survey earlier this summer to assess their thoughts concerning the return to classes.

"Early survey results showed 92% of district parents favored an in-person return to school,” Triplett noted. “Two of the three options presented allow for that, but we have to acknowledge that if conditions worsen, we will have to look at stay-at-home and distance learning options.

"The situation in our county and our region is changing daily,” Triplett added. “We have to keep an eye on the spread of the virus and its severity and be prepared to adjust our plans as we move toward the board's decision. We realize families want a clear answer as soon as possible, and so do we. However, we want to ensure that our plans are built on a solid foundation of current information."

The board is expected to vote on the reentry plan at the Aug. 10 meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Smith-Cotton Junior High School.

In other actions the board:

• Approved the district’s tuition rate at $9,100 for the 2020-21 school year as presented by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Fraley. This is a $500 increase over the previous year but is $690 less than the amount the district could seek of $9,790.

• Set the Tax Rate Hearing for the 2020-21 school year for 6:15 p.m. Aug. 24 in the Smith-Cotton High School commons area. The regularly scheduled board meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m.

• Approved an extension from district auditors Fick, Eggemeyer & Williamson for their audit

services an additional three years through 2022-23 for a price of $9,000 per year. The fee is an increase of $2,000 over the current fee but is considered below industry standards for a district of comparable size, according to Fraley, who presented the proposal.

• Approved the curriculum proposal as presented by Curriculum Directors Devon Gilmore and Becky Brownfield. As Sedalia 200 is transitioning to the Missouri Learning Standards, the district is revising and realigning curriculum. Some of the district’s elective courses will be aligned to the national standards.

• Discussed the Assessment and Professional Development Manuals as presented by Gilmore and Brownfield. An updated assessment calendar for the academic school year is included in the manual. Because of the shortened school year for 2019-20 and incomplete data, it was decided to maintain the previous professional development goals as a district. 

• Approved a new business card (Pcard) agreement with the district’s current banking institution, Equity Bank. Equity Bank will be the direct provider of service for the agreement. There is no annual fee or membership required for the participation by the district.

• Approved the Special Education and Evaluation Program as presented by Assistant Superintendent Chris Pyle. There are 664 students receiving services from the program based on the Dec. 1 count. An additional 115 Early Childhood students also receive services.

According to information in the board packet, the program has five goals:

1. Narrow the achievement gap between special education and regular education students.

2. The graduation rate of students with disabilities will increase.

3. Strengthen the transition process for all special education students.

4. Provide focused professional development for all staff.

5. Increase parent/student participation.

The approved plan addressed ways the district will address each goal.  

• Approved Board Policy 0342 regarding Nepotism, Conflict of Interest and Financial Disclosure.

• Approved payment of bills in the amount of $1,052,980.49 for June 24 to July 21.

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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