Monday, Dec. 13, marked the final Huntington County Community School Corporation (HCCSC) Board of Trustees meeting for 2021, and several project and policy topics were discussed during the meeting.
Discussion regarding HCCSC’s COVID-19 protocol, as well as updates on quarantine and positivity rates, led directly into discussion about upcoming field trips for corporation students. According to HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty, one of the biggest issues that COVID-19 is causing right now is with staffing – especially with bus drivers.
“We’ve had up to five bus drivers out – not just with COVID, but with other issues – so our (remaining) bus drivers have done a really good job of trying to double up routes and we’ve had our Director of Transportation Vanessa Fields drive routes and also some of our mechanics,” Daugherty said. “So people are really pitching in to make sure that our students have transportation.”
Daugherty has stated that as a corporation, HCCSC is sticking with the protocol they have been using throughout this school year, even though Huntington County is currently under a ‘red’ status on the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard site. The ‘red’ status indicates a high level of spread of COVID-19 within a particular county. Daugherty stated that he has been in contact with Huntington County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Matt Pflieger, about the status of Huntington County and what it means for HCCSC. A full re-entry plan guide is available at hccsc.k12.in.us/re-entry_plans.
“He (Dr. Pflieger) is fine with the same protocol, even though we are in red,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty also re-iterated that HCCSC continues to leave the decision regarding COVID-19 vaccinations with parents and caretakers. One change to how HCCSC has been operating, however, is that masks will be required to be worn at an upcoming field trip for HCCSC third and fourth grade students.
The Shrine Circus, which comes to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne each year, is somewhat of a tradition for HCCSC students to attend. Due to the pandemic, this has not been a possibility, but the trip is back on for this January.
According to Director of Curriculum Jay Peters, he had been in contact with the County Health Department recently, asking what their thoughts were on HCCSC students participating in the event.
“They gave us the go-ahead, but they did ask that in a letter we sent out to all third and fourth grade students… that we are going to do a mask requirement,” Peters said. “They felt like this would be a safe precaution for our kids.”
HCCSC students will wear a mask on the bus and until they get to their seats at the coliseum. Students will then be permitted to take their masks off while they are in their seats. Should a student need to take a restroom break, or if they are out in the halls or returning to the bus, they will again put their masks back on.
Parents have the option to not send their students on this trip. Should they choose to opt out of the field trip, their child will have an excused absence and will stay home from school that day.
In unrelated business, the board approved $96,000 worth in donations to several schools within the corporation. Several of the donations were from donorschoose.org, which enables teachers to request funds for particular projects and donors to choose that particular project to fund. Donations provided funding for a variety of items, including additional seating for more flexbility, miniature robots for an elementary robotics club, lamps for a language arts class and more.
A total of $70,000 was donated by Kimmell Financial, with the funds to be used for athletic facility upgrades at Huntington North High School. The sponsorship donation will fund two new LED scoring tables at North Arena, as well as two new medical and water carts at the new multi-purpose facility at HNHS.
Another $23,452.38 was received by the corporation through several Huntington County Community Foundation (HCCF) grants for several schools.
Another project relating to funding and finances is the upcoming K-5 device refresh. A grant totaling $944,875 was awarded through the Emergency Communication Funding Grant and will allow the corporation to refresh their fifth generation iPads to ninth generation iPads. The new devices will have double the storage of the current ones and the cost of each will be lowered, even with the cases and three-year warranties. The project cost totals a little over 1 million dollars, but with the sale of the current devices, the project should break even.
Another upcoming spending project is coming to the food service department. Due to rules brought on by the Indiana Department of Education, school districts are only allowed to have three months of operating expenses in the food service account fund. Currently, HCCSC has $1.1 million in that fund, which is over the three-month amount of operating expenses. This means that Food Service Director Ken Akins is required to spend that money down.
Several different projects across different HCCSC schools will take care of the issue, including replacing the Commons serving line at HNHS to create double the current capacity, as well as a new dish machine at Salamonie School, new serving lines at Riverview Middle School and then updates to the HNHS Pink Room in the cafeteria.
According to Daugherty, one of the reason that HCCSC has extra money in this account is because of funding received from the federal government for COVID-19 help, as well as funding from the United States Department of Agriculture.
All donations and spending projects were approved as presented.
The next HCCSC Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie School, 1063E-900S, Warren.