Lowndes OKs school return plan; masks optional

·3 min read

Jul. 21—VALDOSTA — Lowndes County School System will return to school this August with the option to wear masks, according to its "Return to School" plan.

The Lowndes County Board of Education approved the plan at its July 19 meeting. The plan includes cleaning/hygiene, learning options, daily COVID-19 screenings and face coverings.

While face coverings are optional — and if worn, they should cover both the nose and mouth — the learning option will not be. Students return to traditional, face-to-face instruction this school year.

Because of this, according to the plan, the school system will implement "more intensive" COVID-19 prevention strategies and enhanced social distancing will be encouraged for staff and students.

Custodial staff will be cleaning and disinfecting the schools on a regular basis, and hand sanitizer will be placed throughout the school.

Lowndes school officials are requesting parents to complete SchoolCare registration as soon as possible as it's a requirement for the student to see the school clinic. Parents who opt out will have their students sent home at the first sign of illness.

Mental health support will be provided, too, via social workers and counselors, as the county school system recognizes the emotional impact of COVID-19.

The Lowndes County Board of Education approved the Lake Park Elementary School professional services which will start the development of a "Request for Proposal" from a design professional.

The ROP is for designs of a new Lake Park Elementary School from competing and interested firms. A selection committee will help evaluate proposals.

The June financial report was approved.

Payroll and operating expenditures for June reached $19,007,272.19 altogether; whereas QBE, taxes and other revenues reached $16,620,377.42.

The fund balance for the end of June was $50,947,399.60, a difference of $2,386,894.77 from the May balance of $53,334,294.37. The ending fund balance to budget percentage is 55.42%.

Special purpose local option sales tax collections for the month reached $1,343,383.17 and have totaled $7,637,364.89 for the year to date.

Personnel lists A and B were approved. List A was approved by all board members in attendance except for Chairman Eddie Smith who abstained, and list B was approved unanimously.

District 1 board member Mike Davis was the only member not in attendance.

Updates were given on Lowndes High School's renovation. Jared Hall of JCI Construction said there is $1.8 million of $2.1 million in contingency money for the project.

It's been used to mostly correct existing conditions that have caused disrepair in the past, coordination issues and a few materials that faced cost escalation.

Keith Barrett of Altman, Barrett Architects gave an update on the multipurpose room and field house renovations.

The multipurpose room's kitchen and prepared food space will receive a large storage refrigerator, two merchandisers, a small walk-in cooler, two warming cabinets and a griddle — marking an addition of 200 square feet to the design.

Barrett said the field house/weight room will store its air-conditioning units on the roof for cost efficiency.

Finish dates for both projects are tentative as the projects are still awaiting for materials to arrive.

Construction documents are expected to be completed Sept. 10; advertisements for bids will be finished by Sept. 14, bids will be received by Oct. 15, and construction will start by Nov. 5, according to the county schedule.

The school board recognized the Hahira Middle School archery team for becoming Bullseye State Champions for the third year in a row.

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