BY KARISSA MILLER
The Iredell-Statesville Board of Education met Friday afternoon to discuss the district’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Superintendent Brady Johnson began by thanking administrators, teachers and staff for their hard work during such an unprecedented time. In particular, he cited the work of employees in Child Nutrition and Prime Time.
The district finished its first work of providing remote instruction on Friday. In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered all public schools in the state closed to students through May 15.
During the past two weeks, I-SS has been focused on preparing to deliver online instruction and making sure the needs of students and their families are met.
“As this goes deeper into springtime, we want to make sure that we have a good sustainability plan in place and that all of our employees have options – of working or training from home, using appropriate leave when it’s necessary,” Johnson said.
One challenge, the superintendent said, is keeping classified employees — teacher assistants, bus drivers, maintenance workers and other positions — working during this time.
Buses are running to deliver meals to students at their homes.
Johnson said the community’s willingness to support the district and the students has been tremendous. Numerous churches and nonprofits have stepped up, he said, and county commissioners and County Manager Beth Jones have reached out as well.
Chief Finance Officer Melissa Wike said the upheaval caused by COVID-19 has not impacted the district’s finances so far.
“We have not incurred significant additional expenses as a result of the shutdown or remote learning,” Wike said.
Gov. Cooper directed an additional $50 million earlier this week to help districts across the state with unexpected costs as a result of coronavirus shutdown.
“I don’t know what our allotment will be. I don’t know what expenses will be eligible,” Wike told the board.
Child Nutrition Director Tina Wilson gave an update on the district’s free breakfast and lunch meals program. More than 63,000 breakfasts and lunches have been served to I-SS students at pickup locations and district bus stops since schools were shuttered, she said.
Prime Time Child Care Director Grover Linebarger said that there still may be some reservations from parents who have not brought their child into the after-school program. The six elementary school sites serving students are Cloverleaf, Troutman, Lakeshore, Woodland Heights, Celeste Henkel and Central.
Executive Director of Elementary Education Jonathan Ribbeck said elementary teachers are participating in virtual instruction. Schools are reaching out to families and making sure students have Internet access and giving out devices. Teachers have been training students on how to do their work remotely.
Teachers will not be able to address every state standard, Ribbeck said. They are focusing on the top standards that students will need the next year. Exceptional Children and Academically Intellectually Gifted students are getting their needs met, he said.
Executive Director of Secondary Education Kelly Cooper said district teachers are adjusting to new challenges.
“Our teachers did not sign up to be online teachers,” she said. “This has been something new to them as well.”
The district’s digital teacher and learning coaches have worked hand in hand with content coaches. Last weekend the digital learning coaches worked 12-hour days to provide training sessions for teachers, Cooper said.
Executive Director of Technology and Media Services David Edwards said about 400 families in the district still do not have Internet access. The biggest hurdle is the northern part of the county, where there are service issues and there is only one provider out in that area.
The Technology Department is continuing to respond to work orders, set up computer pick-up locations and provide loaners for families. Five new servers are in place that serve 20,000 devices.
I-ss is compliant with student protective laws, Edwards said, and some software restrictions have been removed to use off site for teachers. He also mentioned that student computers are still blocking things like illegal downloads.
Next Board Meeting
At the end of Friday’s meeting, the board discussed the possibility of having a remote board meeting on April 6 using the Zoom video-conferencing app.
However, the idea of an electronic meeting was not popular among a majority of the board members.
The board came to the conclusion that they are “essential” and could continue to meet.
“I think we should only do this as a last-minute resort. I think it’s good for the public to see us come together as a board,” said school board member Todd Carver.
Board member Ken Poindexter said he agreed and would rather meet in person.