This time last year, local school districts were discussing mask requirements, virtual learning options and possible delays in starting the school year. This school year — with COVID-19 numbers a fraction of what they were last July and easy public access to vaccines — will look different.

The Jackson County Board of Education discussed the upcoming school year during its July 12 work session.

“We’re really excited to actually start a school year,” said Todd Nickelsen, assistant superintendent for human resources and student support services.

The Center for Disease Control released new COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools on Friday, July 9, and district leadership will be meeting this week with principals to discuss the upcoming school year.

“Generally speaking, we’re still going to use caution, but we’re going to go back to school as much as normal,” said Jackson County School System superintendent April Howard.

Children under the age of 12 aren’t yet eligible to get vaccinated and Howard said they will be discussing possible mitigation strategies with elementary principals.

“We will be talking with our elementary principals about visitors and how we want to manage potential mitigation strategies,” she said. “…But generally speaking, while being safe, we’re going to return to as normal of a process as possible.”

Enrollment up

County students will return to the hallways for the first day of school on July 30. Enrollment is already up by almost 200 students.

“We’re already up over 200 folks and it’s just climbing,” said Nickelsen.

As of July 9, the district had 8,902 students enrolled in its schools, up from 8,711 at the end of 2020-21.

DISCUSSION ITEMS

Other items discussed during the BOE work session included:

•the new Jackson County High School, which will open this upcoming year. District leaders are working on transportation patterns for the new school for bus and car riders. Transportation director David Farmer said busses that travel on Hwy. 124 will come in on Hwy. 332 before going onto Skelton Rd. (instead of taking Skelton Rd. directly off Hwy. 124).

•the future middle school in West Jackson on the Skelton Rd. property. District leaders have been meeting with the design team and will soon begin meeting with engineers. Ted Gilbert, assistant superintendent of operations, also asked the BOE to begin considering names for the new school.

•continuing renovation work at the Empower College and Career Center, located in the former Jackson County Comprehensive High School.

•upcoming budget hearings, set tentatively for Aug. 5 and Sept. 9, both at 6 p.m. The BOE could approve the budget and millage rate on Sept. 13 at 6:30 p.m. The budget won’t be finalized until the district receives the county tax digest.

CONSENT AGENDA ITEMS

Items approved by the BOE on Monday, July 12, were:

•a parental leave policy and an competitive interscholastic activities policy (that policy allows homeschool students in grades 6-12 to participate in extracurricular and interscholastic activities). The board also discussed a new teacher evaluation appeals policy and could take action on the policy in August.

•declaring several instructional and technology items surplus.

•the FY22 board training plan and FY21 board training report.

•a tower and lease agreement with the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

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