The Barrow County Board of Education approved on Tuesday, Aug. 3, an architectural services proposal for planned renovations at Bethlehem and County Line elementary schools, as well as for other non-state funded projects.

The district will contract with Cunningham Forehand Matthews and Moore, which has done work on several school projects in the county in recent years. Joe Perno, assistant superintendent for system operations, said the work at the elementary schools is targeted to begin next summer.

The district will pay the architectural firm 5% of the cost of construction for the work at the two schools, and the district will be reimbursed for those costs by the Georgia Department of Education.

The non-state funded projects, which Perno said will need attention in the coming months and years, include work at the district’s athletic and agriculture facilities, its maintenance department property, pod and mobile units, the old Bethlehem and County Line elementary buildings, Sims Academy, the professional development center and the Center for Innovative Teaching.

The school board will have to approve any guaranteed maximum price recommendations higher than $25,000 before construction begins at any of the locations.

OTHER BUSINESS

In other business Tuesday, the board:

•heard from Jennifer Houston, assistant superintendent for business services that the district brought in a monthly record $1.47 million in ELOST collections in July.

•approved three policy changes to bring the district in compliance with recently-approved changes to state law. Those included: allowing up to 120 hours (three full work weeks) of paid parental leave for teachers who have been employed at least six months and worked at least 700 hours; new procedures that outline how teachers can appeal performance ratings they receive from their district and how they can claim “procedural deficiencies” on the part of the district conducting the evaluation; and allowing home-school students to participate in sports and extracurricular activities at the public school they are zoned for. In order to be eligible, home-school students would have to enroll in at least one “qualifying course” facilitated by the district, maintain good academic standing and be subject to the same tryout rules and expenses associated with any team or group.

•approved the use of Austin, Texas-based ESS for substitute and staffing services, effective Sept. 6. It’s a change from the district’s current provider, Kelly Services, and district officials said they anticipate the district will save 7% on substitute teacher and paraprofessional fees and 4% on substitute and permanent positions in school food nutrition. The estimated savings are $40,000 based on the district’s $800,000 substitute budget.

•approved the payment of $50,085 to Audio Enhancements for the use of ViewPath in 797 district classrooms for the 2021-22 academic year. Teachers use the system to record and distribute classroom sessions. The system requires an annual license fee of $106 per classroom. Of the payment total, $34,397 represents a one-time 50% discount the district is receiving ($53 per classroom for 649 classrooms where the system was installed in 2020) because the classrooms didn’t utilize it due to the coronavirus pandemic. The remaining $15,688 covers the full $106 fee for 148 classrooms where the system was installed in 2019.

•recognized the student winners of the 2021 Tar Wars poster contest that took place last school year. The school district partners with Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow on the contest, in which students demonstrate what they have learned through the tobacco-free education program. District winners included: first place, Jailyn Delira-Castaneda, fifth grade, Yargo Elementary; second place, Noah Self, fourth grade, Yargo Elementary; and Azul Velazquez, fifth grade, Bethlehem Elementary. Self also finished third in the statewide competition.

•recognized Bramlett Elementary for being named a Title I Distinguished School and Auburn Elementary and Russell Middle for being named Title I Reward schools by the Georgia Department of Education. A Title I Reward School is a Title I school among the top 5% in the state determined to be “making the most progress in improving the performance of” students over the most recent two years on statewide assessments. A Title I Distinguished School is considered among the top 5% of Title I schools statewide that have the “highest absolute performance” based on the most current statewide assessment.

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