Trimble County Board of Education approved a final bid and agreed to pursue a bond option to finance almost $8 million in renovations and improvements to Trimble County Jr/Sr High School.
The board discussed the school renovation and financing along with discussions on an ongoing substitute teacher shortage, the hiring of a mental health professional and other improvement plans at its December meeting.
Dwight Salsbury, of RSA Advisors, presented the board with bond options to finance up to $7,992,962 in construction and renovation based on bids received from EH Construction. The proposed improvements at the school were presented as five options based on the scope of the construction and renovation to be accomplished.
The $7,992,962 estimate would cover the entire project and allow many changes including but not limited to new lights and windows, the removal of certain walls, the replacement of sections of the roof where cracks have formed, renovation of the stage area, HVAC on the middle school side of the building and adding an entrance to the band room that doesn’t require students to walk outside.
The approximately $6,165,000 bond option preferred by board members would be paid off over a 20-year period and require a debt service for 5 years, during which the board would borrow $75,000 from its general fund to meet annual payments. The total cost of the annual payments will not be set until a bond sale at the end of January 2023, but Superintendent Jessica Wilcoxson said repaying the bond will not require a tax increase.
Board member McKenzie Harper motioned to approve the final bid by EH Construction and recommended the board take the largest bond option in order to make all of the desired renovations. Amanda Edmonson seconded the motion, and the motion was passed without opposition by the board.
Elsewhere, the board discussed a contract with Seven Counties to hire a mental health professional for Trimble County schools. Such a contract would provide a resource not currently available in the district, though according to Wilcoxson, a similar contract had previously been in place but fell apart during the pandemic. Suzy Turner motioned to approve the contract with the condition that the Board of Education be billed no more than $5,000 annually. The motion was seconded by Edmonson and passed without opposition.
The board also approved a motion to begin a search for a full-time substitute teacher for Bedford and Milton elementary schools. It also approved a motion to compensate teachers who give up planning time to cover another classroom with a stipend, similar to that given for professional development or covering ESS. Teachers would receive compensation at a rate of $25 per hour and would be required to stay an hour after school to make up planning.
Meanwhile, Kathy House, chief academic officer, updated the school board on the improvement plan goals being set in response to Bedford and Milton elementary schools being designated for Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to close the performance gap. House said that a team of eight Trimble County teachers – two from each elementary school and four from the Jr/Sr high school – met to work on performance assessments. The goal was to develop performance assessments that met academic standards while also measuring three identified competencies: empowered learner, resilient learner and contributing citizen. Kerrie Stewart, principal of Trimble County Jr/Sr High, said that her teachers called the current project “the best PD that they’ve had in quite some time.”
“They left tired, but excited and hopeful,” Stewart said. “And that’s the sign of a good PD.” She said that her staff were excited to bring the work from outside of the classroom back to their students.
Wilcoxson said that the district has worked with the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC) to improve the experience of Trimble County students.
“It’s exciting because OVEC is really jumping on to what we’re doing,” Wilcoxson said. “It’s always nice when others are noticing and excited about the work that you’re doing and wanting to share the work with others. They asked us to present at the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.”
Wilcoxson said that though she was unable to go, she asked House to attend because the presentation was “a good opportunity for us.”
“OVEC wanted us to represent what’s going on in our region,” Wilcoxson said. “So Kathy went and presented what we’ve been doing and shared some strategies.”
After the presentation on Dec. 5, OVEC invited the Trimble County School board to present again on Jan. 11, when the entire OVEC group convenes for deeper learning.
In other reports, Wilcoxson recognized 16 staff members for perfect attendance in the first half of the school year: Bedford Elementary staff Jennifer Brierly, Andrea Craig, Michael Dunaway, Jetta Walls and Brittney Welty; Bedford and Milton Elementary employee Mike Isley; Milton Elementary staff Lora Blankman, Stephanie Harris, Becky Phillips and Margaret Snow; Jr/Sr High staff Katelyn Hamblin, Terri Lawson, Maggie McLain and Jared Sanford; and transportation department employees Ellen Ely and Brittnie Wrightman.
“I truly appreciate and this board appreciates you showing up every single day to serve our students,” Wilcoxson said. “I know that there’s illnesses that go around, I know that there’s appointments to be made, and I just appreciate you all working around your school schedules to be present for our kiddos. And I just feel like that’s something worthy of recognition.”
In other business, the board unanimously approved a second reading of the calendar for the 2023-2024 school year.
The next meeting of the Trimble County Board of Education will be Jan. 11, 2023 at 6 p.m.