With one eye squarely focused on the calendar while the other figuratively watches the skies, members of the Harlan County Board of Education agreed to minor adjustments to the current school year and adopted a plan of days for the next one.
Classes are now scheduled to end on May 29, with the graduation ceremony set for June 1. Classes will begin again Aug. 6.
During Tuesday’s regular monthly meeting, school leaders briefly discussed various scenarios involved in completing what has been the most difficult period of winter weather in a generation. Recent forecasts indicate the accumulation of missed school days may not have passed just yet.
In addition to continuing weather threats, the state legislature has been debating various ways to relieve schools of some of the burden of scheduling make-up days in an ever-tightening window of opportunity.
While elected officials continue to debate the issue, the days available to fit in make-up time are passing by. Rather than wait to see what their possible options might be, Harlan County will continue with the school calendar as it is.
“By the time it’s (legislative action) all said and done, we wouldn’t have time to do it anyway,” said board chairman Gary Farmer.
The board also noted the extra strain the brutal winter placed upon the school district’s maintenance staff and Farmer asked the members to commend the exceptional work by those employees during the past two months.
It also brought to the board’s attention the need to discuss adding some staff to the maintenance department to meet the demands.
“When the weather conditions are bad, you really see how stretched we are,” Farmer said.
Board member Myra Mosley commended the improvements made by school food service over the past few months, saying she had received a great deal of positive feedback from students and families lately, especially from the high school.
In addition to an Aug. 6 start date for schools, the tentative calendar for 2014-15 includes a break Nov. 3-4 for the general election, the usual three-day Thanksgiving holiday, a Christmas vacation from Dec. 22 until Jan. 5, Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 19, spring break from March 30, 2015 to April 3, and a last day for students of May 8. 2015.
In other action, the board:
• Authorized Board Attorney Johnnie Turner to resolve by settlement or judgment four outstanding workers compensation claims;
• Accepted an employment report from Superintendent Mike Howard of three hires, two retirements and three transfers among classified staff;
• Accepted site base council reports from Wallins and Evarts elementary schools;
• Approved payment of claims totaling $494,392.03;
• Approved White & Associates PSC as the district auditor for the 2013-2014 school year;
• Approved a lease agreement with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College for the use of a softball field next to the old Cumberland High School at no cost;
• Approved a lease agreement with Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College for use of the baseball field at a cost of $2,400;
• Approved a six-month medical leave of absence for a Cumberland Elementary School food service employee;
• Approved a medical leave of absence for a Cumberland Elementary School teacher, beginning March 19;
• Approved awarding pest control bid to Emory Exterminating for School Food Services for period of April 1 to March 31, 2015;
• Approved a contract for the high school’s 21st Century program with Eastern Kentucky Pride Inc. in the amount of $1,500 for a recycling project;
• Approved an application for assistance for underground storage tank removal from the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection at the Evarts High School property;
• Approved a contract with Chase Environmental for underground storage tank removal at the Evarts High School site;
• Approved a change of date for the previously approved Green Hills eighth grade trip to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., from May 24 to May 17;
• Approved an application for school food services to apply and enter into agreements with the state for the Community Eligibility Program, the National School Breakfast, the National School Lunch Program, the At-Risk Snack and Supper Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for all elementary schools for 2014-2015;
• Discussed the addition of an agricultural education program at the high school;
• Approved the Green Hills Elementary School First Priority trip (after school) to Knoxville, Tenn., on April 17 for a Casting Crowns concert;
• Approved a high school baseball team trip to McMinn, Tenn.;
• Approved a Rosspoint Elementary School eighth grade trip for EXPLORE Awards to be taken the first five days after the school year ends to Pigeon Forge, Tenn.;
• Approved a Cawood Elementary School eighth grade trip to Lincoln Memorial University, Harrogate, Tenn., on April 11 for a college and career readiness program;
• Held a 40-minute executive session to discuss pending litigation.