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Students to get free meals through Dec. 31

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    Literacy Specialist Amy Marlowe speaks at the Sept. 8 in-person Board of Education meeting, sharing information with board members about literacy projects throughout the summer and continuing plans for the school year. DEBBIE LURIE-SMITH/Staff

Perhaps the biggest news from the September Jones County Board of Education meeting is free meals for all students.

School Nutrition Program Director Roslyn B. Foster said, effective Sept. 9 through Dec. 31, free meals will be available through the USDA. This means that meals can be served free of charge to students and other children in the community ages 0-18, during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Foster added a caveat to the announcement that the free meals would only last as long as the federal funding is available.

The Sept. 8 Board of Education meeting was held in person with masks and social distancing. The meeting was called to order by Board Chairman Ginger Bailey. All board members were in attendance with Board Member Alfred Pitts joining via Zoom video conferencing.

The chairman’s report started with her concerns over the mandated testing for students, anticipated to take place at the end of spring.

“We need to get people on board and contact our representatives. We know our children will suffer from taking this test. Virtual learning cannot take the place of in-person instruction,” she said.

Bailey also expressed her concerns about the SWISS contracts with school districts.

“Schools in south Georgia don’t even have internet. This is from the federal government. It will have bitter consequences, and I’m afraid our children will have to pay for it,” she said. “It’s election year. We need to let our representatives know not to throw our kids under the bus.”

During their comments, board members Mike Gordon, Kim Washburn and Pitts thanked the community for its support and expressed their pride in the school system for keeping the number of positive cases low.

“We can’t slack off,” board member Dr. Nancy Nash added. “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

School Superintendent Chuck Gibson focused his appreciation on students.

“They executed the plan day one and made adjustments to their daily lives. Because of their perseverance is victory, from pre-K to seniors,” he said. “Thank you. They are the key to what we are doing.”

Literacy

Literacy Specialist Amy Marlowe told board members that her report this month had no razzle-dazzle, as she proceeded to dazzle them with everything that went on over the summer for literacy.

She said 1,500 books were given out since March 13 through the six little libraries placed across the county, and 10 retired newspaper boxes were received from the McClatchy News and Macon Telegraph to replace and update existing boxes as needed.

Marlowe said 600 books were distributed to students in partnership with the summer lunch program, and 97 participants in the summer reading challenge read 2,782 books.

The specialist said the literacy bus Little Jo was undergoing repairs of its windows and roof hatches that had begun to leak, thanks to Scott Walston and Gray Memorial Chapel.

“This could be their only resurrection,” she stated.

Marlowe said it was time to extend the L4GA literacy grant for an additional three years, and work continues with Growing Greyhounds and the Early Care Coalition.

College and Career Academy

Jones County College and Career Academy CEO Laura Rackley reported that the academy would be undergoing its first CCA certification Nov. 5-6. She said the process would take place virtually and the certification team would be reviewing materials on the website and assessing standards.

She said the team would take a virtual tour and Audiovisual Technology and Film Instructor Kip Welch’s classes are taking 360-degree pictures and adding bells, whistles and media features.

Rackley said she was looking forward to the process.

“It will be an affirmation of the work we are doing and give us the opportunity to talk about the things our students have accomplished,” she said.

She said JCCCA employability skills are embedded in every course, but the effort is being focused with Georgia BEST: JCCCA’s Employability Skills training that when completed is registered with the department of labor.

Rackley said they have learned that students will work for cords and the Georgia BEST Cords initiative includes two options for earning cords, GA BEST Cord and GA BEST Elite Cord. She said some of this year’s career activities would take place virtually including guest speakers, interviews, and college and military recruiters.

Nutrition

Foster’s report explained that she was first briefed on the free meals announcement Sept. 4. She said 13,000 lunches a week were distributed in Jones County over the summer. The director said the meals were prepared at two schools and the ladies who worked to prepare the meals had not had a break.

Foster said Jones County already reached its requirement for free and reduced lunch status. More good news was that any student charges due back to Sept. 1 could be rolled into the program.

For students enrolled in the Jones County Virtual Academy, breakfast and lunch meals can be picked up at each school site between 10-11:30 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Jones County School Nutrition Program can be contacted at 478-986-1390 for more information.

Nash said summer lunch program was a huge operation.

“I appreciate all the work this summer from the staff, transportation workers and volunteers,” she said.

Finance report

CFO Tonya Merritt presented the Finance report as of Aug. 31, which was 16.67 percent of the school year.

The total revenues were $6,861,692 and total expenditures $8,669,146. Total cash in the bank is $17,290,383.

The average monthly balance for ESPLOST collections is $211,386.89. Merritt commented that the monthly average was the biggest so far.

Approved action items:

• Purchase of Melco embroidery machine and software to provide training in the Entrepreneurship Pathway at JCCCA. Estimated cost $15,169. 50 and the funding source is JCCCA funds.

• Purchase of 60 chromebooks and license from Firefly Computers for Gray Station Middle School to provide computers for students. Estimated cost $15,240 and the funding sources is the CARES Act.

• Execute contract with Rush Bus Center to purchase a 72-passenger bus to provide safe transportation to students. Estimated cost is $96,475 with $78,000 paid from the state bond account and $18,474 from the transportation budget.

• Execute contract with Collins Bus Sales to purchase a ramp school bus to provide safe transportation to students. Estimated cost is $78,950 and the funding source is local funds.

• Amend funding source for purchasing cameras for the Safety and Security grant, previously approved at Oct. 8, 2019 Board meeting. The change is to add $16,637.79 from ESPLOST funds to the Safety and Security Grant funds to pay for the cameras. The total cost of the cameras is $73,974.59.

The meeting adjourned to enter into closed session. The next meeting date is Oct. 6.