News from the Board -- June 29, 2020

Posted by Jessica Coston on 7/1/2020 11:30:00 AM


On Monday, June 29, the Onslow County Board of Education held a special meeting at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. Agenda items included COVID-19 updates, the adoption of the 2020-2021 budget, the 2020-2021 Career and Technical Education plan, and demolition plans for the old Dixon Middle School building.  

First, the Board heard from Assistant County Manager Sheri Slater, who shared with the Board and OCS staff the measures Onslow County is taking, and recommends citizens taking, to slow the spread of COVID-19. Though Slater said county officials are hopeful that the county’s COVID-19 numbers are heading in the right direction, she emphasized the importance of continuing to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing. Slater, in response to Board member questions regarding schools reopening, suggested taking precautions such as having students eat lunch in classrooms instead of cafeterias, having teachers move from room to room instead of having  students  transition, and more. She also shared that the county is prepared to work with the school district to test OCS employee ahead of their return to school buildings.  
Following Slater’s updates, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Beth Folger took to the podium to share OCS’ plans regarding the Summer Jump Start program and updates on how planning is going for reopening schools in August.  

Beginning with the Jump Start program, Dr. Folger explained that House Bill 1043 requires LEAs to provide a summer learning opportunity for rising 1st through 5th graders whose learning has been negatively affected by the impacts of COVID-19. The Jump Start program will include 10 student days, July 15-30, and two teacher workdays. EC teachers, teaching assistants, guidance counselors, nurses and social workers will be on hand to support students and staff attending the program. Daily content will include two hours of literacy instruction, one hour of math instruction, social emotional learning, lunch and health and safety protocols.  

As of the time of the meeting, 502 students had confirmed their in-person attendance. A virtual option will also be available for families who feel more comfortable with online instruction.  

Next, Dr. Folger discussed the district’s development of the re-entry plan for August 2020. The district’s guiding principles, Dr. Folger said, are considering the safety and wellness of students and employees, responding to the needs of vulnerable populations, maintaining consistent communication with families, and being adaptable in order to move back and forth on a continuum of plans based on public health needs. She shared that the district, like all other LEAs across North Carolina, are awaiting word from the state regarding which plan schools will reopen under.  

There are three possible plans for school reopening: Plans A, B and C. Plan A would require “minimal social distancing,” meaning buildings would be open to their full student populations, but certain aspects of the school day would need to be modified to allow for social distancing and thorough hygiene procedures. Plan B would require “moderate social distancing,” meaning that school buildings could only be open at up to 50 percent capacity. Plan C would require “remote learning only.” 

Dr. Folger shared that though planning for a variety of unknowns has been challenging, the district is comfortable with its plans for the potential implementation of Plan A, meaning that many elements of Plan B have already been developed. Plan B would require additional planning for opening schools at half capacity, but the preparation of school buildings for Plan A is very similar to the preparation that would be done in the event of Plan B. Dr. Folger said that the district is also prepared for Plan C, as it is similar to the structure the district embraced when schools closed in March for COVID-19.  

Dr. Folger said that district staff have been working hard to plan for all possible scenarios and have formed project teams consisting of principals, Core Council, executive staff, communications staff, and various departments to ensure that all stakeholders are involved in plan development. So far, the district has in place plans to distribute materials to schools including face coverings, plexiglass shields, floor decals to indicate social distancing requirements, and more.  

Following Dr. Folger’s presentation, Chief Finance Officer Jeff Hollamon presented to the Board his request that they adopt the budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The local current expense fund approved earlier this year totaled $65,968,075.74, while the capital outlay fund totaled  $3,348,418. The budget also includes all other funding coming from state and federal sources. The Board unanimously voted to adopt the budget as presented.  

Next, CTE Director Chris Bailey shared with the Board the local 2020-2021 Career and Technical Education Plan.  Bailey said that due to changes in the Excellence in CTE Act, the district’s CTE department has made changes in program offerings. The number of programs has decreased from 8 to 6, with Business & Marketing and Trade, Technology, Engineering & Industrial Education becoming combined subjects, and Computer Science & IT Education becoming an additional subject area. Other changes include the updated definition of a “concentrator” student and a new method of interpreting data.  

Bailey said that, similar to years prior, the CTE focus will be on growing the local workforce, expanding career development services, and establishing full time special populations services. New pathways to be offered include computer science, which will be offered at all high schools, and nursing fundamentals, which will be offered at the Eastern North Carolina Regional Skills Center. New course and/or program offerings being considered include robotics, advanced manufacturing, heavy equipment, industrial maintenance, and boat manufacturing.  

The Board unanimously approved the CTE plan.  

Last on the agenda was a presentation from Chief Operations Officer Steve Myers regarding demolition plans for the old Dixon Middle School building. Myers said that plans include the demolition of parts of the old DMS facility, including the main building, main annex, cafeteria, classroom wing and white building. The ages of those buildings range from 70 to 92 years old. He also shared that it was determined these parts of the building would need to be demolished due to deficiencies with the foundation, roofing, mechanicals, windows, doors and more. Part of the building will remain standing and be used as an annex for Dixon High School, which is located on the same campus.  

Myers shared that the lowest responsive, responsible bidder for the demolition project was Webb Harrell Construction Service Corporation, who bid $345,000 for the job. The Board unanimously approved Webb Harrell Construction to demolish parts of the old DMS facility.