The Jefferson Board of Education recently held its two-day fall retreat on Thursday (Nov. 11) and Friday (Nov. 12).
The board discussed a multitude of topics including the upcoming expansion of Jefferson Middle School; financial updates; an updates of JCS’s Cognia accreditation among other issues. But perhaps the biggest highlight of the retreat was an hour-long question-and-answer with a panel of teachers from Jefferson’s four schools.
The panel answered questions and addressed numerous issues from the greatest challenges facing students and teachers, to how the school can meet the mental health needs of everyone in the system.
When it comes to challenges facing students, the consensus answer among teachers was helping those who may lack support at home. Some of the solutions discussed included reaching parents and getting them to schools more often; connecting students to mentors; and the potential creation of a full-time community outreach position.
Another challenge is one teachers have heard personally from their students; not being prepared for life after high school. Students have expressed concerns about how to pay taxes and bills, cooking and choosing a college. During the Q/A, the idea of an “adulting” lesson was floated around.
That debate led to the teachers discussing the challenges they face. Many of those challenges spurred from the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendance still isn’t back to what it was before COVID and the school system is stressing the importance of in-person communication to students.
The other issue spawned by COVID-19 is more difficult to deal with. The younger students and recent enrollees at Jefferson schools grew accustomed to living in front of a screen whether if was for learning, or entertainment when they were unable to leave their homes during the quarantine.
This has had a negative effect on the attention spans of some students, presenting a challenge for teachers of all ages, but especially teachers Pre-K and kindergarten. The teachers noted that when the pandemic began, their current students were still toddlers.
The final topic discussed by the panel was how the schools can meet the mental health needs of students. The teachers on the panel acknowledged that not every student felt comfortable with a counsilor or principal, but also acknowledged that anyone can build a relationship with students. The panel even pondered creating groups of teachers to build relationships with students dealing with mental health issues.
JEFFERSON MIDDLE SCHOOL EXPANSION
The first major topic on the agenda Thursday was the expansion of Jefferson Middle School. Craig Buckley of James W. Buckley & Associates, Inc. presented each phase of the plan to expand JMS.
The first phase includes the creation of a new wing at the front of the school that also links the main building to the gymnasium. This new wingwould include a classrooms, labs and bandroom and a connected greenhouse.
The follow phases include the stretching of the northeast wing to include officers, a larger library and exploratory classrooms; renovations to the existing building; and expanding the gymnasium.
Buckley noted that little site work was needed for the project sbecause the land is already “pretty flat. For instance, the new wing between the building and gym encroaches on land that was the schools’ soccer field.
Buckley also talked about expanding Jefferson High School and noted that the main building qualifies for a state modernization grant which awards $60 per square foot. He says the schools has a lot of room to make reconfigurations
•discussed JHS’s move to Class AAAAA for GHSA athletics, and its rejected appeal to stay in AAAA. Board member Brantly Porter chastised the GHSA’s reclassification committee’s decision saying it goes against player safety. In football, Jefferson has a number of starters smaller than what most AAAAA programs field.
•heard a financial update overviewing FY2021
•heard a presentation about trauma, what it is and the effects it can have on students. The presentation ended with a discussion about Georgia House Bill 855 which could allow foster care students to receive special education.
•received an update on the Dragon Digest newsletter. The letter has an open rate of 76-percent. Director of communications and public relations Sydney Casey continued communication updates with statistics from Jefferson schools’ social media sites.
•heard a presentation about cybersecurity from digital learning specialist Kris Plummer.
Prior to the retreat, the board held its monthly meeting. The meeting, the board:
•approved the CARES III budget of $1.614 million. The budget includes a $500 retention bonus, which totals $240,625. The largest item on the budget is data management and MTSS for $325,493.
•approved the replacement of the gymnasium floor at Jefferson Elementary School. The BOE accepted AAA Commercial Floors big of $52,493 with the possible addition of $26,237 for concrete moisture prep and sealer. The JES gym floor replacement is on the CARES III budget, but the total of $78,730 exceeds the $75,000 allotted for the floor.
•recognized the JHS volleyball and cross country teams. The volleyball and girls cross country teams won Region 8-AAAA Championships in 2021.
•recognized the Art in the Park winners from JES.
•recognized JHS student Emily Puckett who was appointed to state superintendent Richard Woods’ student advisory council.
•learned the dates of four out-of-state field trips. The JHS trips include a WWII tour across Normandy, Bastogne, Luxembourg and Nuremberg from March 31 to April 12; a tour of Hawaii’s national parks from May 29 to June 4; trip to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn. on December 16-17. The one JMS trip is to Florida’s national parks from June 8-13.