The proposed 2021-2022 Pickens School Calendar.
The Pickens Board of Education is asking parents to weigh in on the proposed 2021-2022 school calendar.
The calendar is similar to the 2020-2021 calendar, with the addition of digital learning days in conjunction with two teacher workdays and a slight shift to the Winter Break.
The school year is scheduled tentatively to begin August 2 with staggered start times that were used this year, and which Pickens School Superintendent Dr. Rick Townsend said were popular among parents, students, and teachers/administrators. The last day of school is scheduled for May 27.
Fall Break is proposed for Sept. 20 – 24, with Winter Break scheduled for February 21-25. Three of the Winter Break days are earmarked for inclement weather makeup days if needed. Students will again get one week off for Thanksgiving and two weeks off for Christmas.
Board chair Tucker Green told the Progress students will be expected to participate in digital learning on two scheduled days that are also teacher workdays - Friday, Sept. 3 and Monday, March 14 if the calendar is approved.
“But this does not add the number of days students will be in school. It will be two of the 180 days they are required to have. In the big scheme of things, from a strategic standpoint,” Green said they want continue to utilize the digital learning platforms in the future without all instruction necessarily being face-to-face. By having built-in digital learning days students can get practice on those platforms from home. Digital learning could come in handy if there is a significant weather event and school has to be closed for a long period. If conditions allow during those times, students could use digital learning instead of missing a day of school that would need to be made up later.
Green noted that last year on the Friday before JeepFest, the board made that day an early release day because heavy traffic from the event made afternoon bus routes problematic. For 2021-2022 it is proposed that same Friday be a digital learning day instead of early release.
The calendar was introduced for approval at the regular board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12, but board member Sue Finley requested that, despite the calendar not being significantly different from last year, they still survey the community before final approval.
Visit the school webpage for the survey link: www.pickenscountyschools.org.
Meal service down due to pandemic
Pickens Schools Director of Operations Stacy Gilleland reported lunch and breakfast service has reduced dramatically due to the ongoing pandemic, which is impacting the nutrition department’s bottom line.
Gilleland told board members that pre-pandemic, before March 13, the system served an average of 2,800 lunch and 1,480 breakfast meals.
On October 9, just before the Harmony Elementary campus was temporarily closed, they served an average of 1,795 lunch and 1,159 breakfast meals.
During the two week distance learning period from October 26 – November 6 the system served on average 515 lunch and 502 breakfast meals per day.
The nutrition department, headed up by Beth Thompson, has been forced to get creative with their meal delivery system. They have used the transportation department to provide lunch and breakfast to students on distance and virtual learning.
Still, the numbers are much lower than usual and Gilleland said they do not get reimbursed for meals they don’t serve.
“That’s a hit. We’re feeding for free and we can’t give it away for free,” he said. “But if we take it and document it we get reimbursed.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has waived all school meal fees for the remainder of the school year, which means students can receive either breakfast or lunch free through June 30, 2021.
Preliminary numbers show that there has been a 4.76 percent drop in Pickens student’s free and reduced lunch rate, which brings the district to a total of 46.43 percent of the student body. Because student meal fees have been waived this school year, the nutrition department had some difficulty getting parents to complete the free and reduced meal application because parents don’t feel it is necessary.
But Pickens is currently a Title I system, which means it receives funding if a certain percentage of their students are low-income. Gilleland reported that all Title I schools have 40 percent of the student populations on free and reduced and above and that at this point that number still qualifies them, but that “It affects our funding if we don’t get our numbers correct.”
When asked by board member Finley if they would need to supplement the nutrition department from the general fund, Gilleland told the board not this year, and applauded Thompson’s money management - but added that the nutrition director is definitely seeing an impact to the bottom line.
“She’s going through her fund balance rapidly because we’re not serving kids like we were,” he said, adding that districts across the state are experiencing similar issues.
In other news:
•Chief Finance Officer Amy Smith reported there were $514,607 in SPLOST collections received in October. This brings the 12-month average to $511,113.