The following is a boardroom bits of action from the February school board meetings. Stories about issues such as Oman Arena will follow throughout the month.
A $1 stadium and free Verizon flip phones are the first steps toward Jackson-Madison County School System using millions it has in federal grant funding.
At the school board’s monthly February meetings, district leadership gave updates on the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant funding that the district has been using and will continue to use over the next few years.
Following a presentation on what the building and area could become, the school board voted to purchase Oman Arena from the city of Jackson for $1 and continue discussions on its renovation, which will be paid for through ESSER funds.
Oman Arena is on the same block as the old Madison Academic, which got a new building on the University of Memphis-Lambuth campus.
The old Madison will become a hub for central office staff to provide resources for families. A total of $9 million of ESSER is allocated to the Hub City Center.
Site and facility assessment from civil engineering company Kimley-Horn Associates and architectural firm Looney Ricks Kiss estimated an Oman Arena renovation to range from the basic needs at around $9 million to enhancements at about $13 million.
Oman discussions - July 2021: How can JMCSS use new grant money? Relocating central office, renovating Oman Arena are options
Investing money in an Oman Arena renovation would be investing money in someone else’s property if they didn't buy it, board member Sherry Franks said in early discussions.
The City of Jackson owns the property and often rents the stadium out as a venue. In August, the city allowed the school district to use the stadium for Jackson Central-Merry students while JCM's construction was delayed.
For months, parents have experienced and communicated trouble reaching their students’ schools by phone.
The district has worked with Verizon to get free flip phones for school administrators to use while the phone system is replaced.
It’ll take between two and three months and more than $782,000 of ESSER funding to replace it.
Each phone is attached to an email address and multiple lines can be added to each, chief operations officer Bryan Chandler said about at least 5,000 lines having to be transferred.
With the current system, if the internet isn’t working or the phone system fails, there’s no way for families or schools to reach each other.
A school’s administrator and a contact person will have the flip phones for families to reach the school.
The flip phones can also be used as a two-way radio and may be used in the future to replace current walkie talkies.
Moving into central office hub
Madison students are still using the theater in the old Madison building, but central office staff is expected to gradually start moving into the building this summer.
Since Madison students needed a new building due to damages and deferred maintenance, Superintendent Marlon King said the school district has to evaluate which parts of the school can be used now, which need renovations and which can grow over time.
Revived Education Foundation appointed
The board appointed the following to its revived Education Foundation:
Bob Alvey, a former school board member who helped found the foundation in the 1990s, raise the initial endowment of $25,000 and write the original bylaws for the group, to a one-year term
Melisa Summar, the public relations and marketing director for Youth Town, to a two-year term
Peter O’Brien, an associate professor and program director at Jackson State Community College, to a three-year term
The board’s three members would join the City of Jackson’s appointments of Martha Robinson and Kara Reeeves and the county’s appointments of Dan Brooks, Andrea Driggers and Marcus Love. The city must appoint one more person.
The Education Foundation raises awareness and funding for the education system; it was re-established in 2017 about how to distribute local option sales tax and again in 2018. It was revived in late 2021 and early 2022 to prepare for anticipated projects, fundraisers and donations.
In other news
• The school system is under budget by about 5%, as of Jan. 31.
• JMCSS proposed using ESSER funding for nearly two dozen positions.
Ten of those positions have been transferred to the ESSER budget, restoring more than $532,000 to the general purpose fund that is funded locally, statewide and federally. Fourteen more positions, estimated to be more than $700,000, will be transferred to the ESSER budget by the next pay period, Madison County Finance Director Karen Bell said.
• Companies have been submitting bids for hundreds for the $500,000 West Bemis Middle School locker rooms.
Thousands of dollars worth of playground equipment across the school system have been purchased.
The playground equipment and locker rooms were approved to be spent with ESSER funds.
• Jackson Central-Merry High School will get a new auditorium that was not a part of the school’s renovation. The $2 million auditorium will be paid for with ESSER grant funding that will upgrade that part of the building to match the rest of the renovation.
The field house, which was a part of the public-private partnership that renovated JCM, still isn’t finished as the bleacher installation continues.
“We’re grateful for the dollars and the way that we can help the district with its needs,” Deputy Superintendent Ricky Catlett said at the Feb. 8 Education Vision meeting.
Lasherica Thornton is The Jackson Sun's education reporter. Reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @LashericaT
This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: Feb. 2022 JMCSS board meeting buy Oman Arena to renovate, fix phones