2016-03-30 / Front Page

Board sets new date for school opening

By SALLY BARTO

Classes for the 2016-17 school year in the Letcher County School System will begin August 10, according to the new school calendar approved by the Letcher County Board of Education at its March meeting Monday.

The board also set the last day of school next year for May 9. The new dates received the most votes in a poll of certified and classified employees.

In other action at this week’s meeting, board members learned that enrollment in the county system is down 25 students from the beginning of the 2015-16 year.

Total enrollment for the seventh month of the school year is 3,106 — Arlie Boggs Elementary School, 125; Cowan Elementary School, 382; Fleming-Neon Middle School, 202; Letcher Elementary School, 345; Letcher Middle School, 158; Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, 416; West Whitesburg Elementary School, 437, Whitesburg Middle School, 175; Letcher County Central High School, 862; and alternative education, four.

Director of Pupil Personnel Kenneth Cornett told the Letcher County Board of Education at its March meeting this week that enrollment is 34 students less than it was at this time last school year. In February, enrollment was 13 students higher than at the same time last year.

“We seem to be yo-yoing for some reason,” Cornett said. “I don’t really understand or know why that is happening. We do have a lot of kids right now who are moving around the district and possibly between districts, too.”

Student attendance for the seventh month of this school year is 91.08 percent district wide.

“This is not a particularly good month for us,” said Cornett. “We had a lot of illness during this time period. We seem to be back on track though. Our attendance rates per day are increasing.”

To alleviate crowded conditions at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, Dr. Sam Quillen, a former board member, asked the board to consider moving MJP’s fifth grade to Fleming- Neon Middle School.

“I think we looked at it one time and discussed the pros and cons,” said Quillen, who attended Monday night’s board meeting to watch his grandchild read a paper she had written for social studies. “I keep hearing from staff and teachers at MJP just how packed it is, which is a good problem to have like (at church) on Easter Sunday.”

In other business, Myrtle Boggs, a teacher at Arlie Boggs Elementary School, was recognized by the board for her appointment by Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Stephen L. Pruitt to the Teachers Advisory Council.

The board also approved a project application form with the Kentucky Department of Education for replacing a coal boiler with a propane-fired boiler at Arlie Boggs Elementary School. Supt. Tony Sergent said the cost is estimated at $70,000, which doesn’t include site preparation and propane.

Sergent said the project won’t begin until after May 24 when school is out for summer break.

The coal-fired boiler system at ABES broke down during the winter and the Harlan County school district donated parts to temporarily fix the furnace.

“We were real fortunate to get the coal furnace repaired to get us through the winter,” said Board Chairman Will Smith. “We made it.”

Sergent said installing a propane-fired boiler is the cheapest solution.

“You’d just about have to remodel the school to put in some type of heat pump system,” said Sergent. “It would be a complete overhaul. It would be a complete renovation, which would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

In other business, Regina Brown and others from the Letcher County Teachers Organization visited the Kentucky State Capitol March 24.

“It was a long day but it was very fruitful for us,” said Brown. “We met with every eastern Kentucky representative that represents the districts in our area. We even met with the governor. I wouldn’t let go of his hand until I told him he needed to fund public education.”

Brown urged board members, educators and others to contact legislators and ask them to keep budget cuts away from education.

“We all know that those cuts would hurt us tremendously in this county,” said Brown. “If you all have an opportunity over the next few days and can bend an ear of anybody, Brandon Smith will be the number one and (Robert) Stivers that I recommend that you bend ears. I encourage you to make a call and talk to somebody.”

Asst. Supt. Twyla Messer addressed the board concerning some odd spending in March, including a $6,318 stage curtain for Letcher Elementary School and $726 to changing the lock cores at the Letcher County Central High School field house.

Messer said four new bus drivers are being trained to assist with transporting students on upcoming trips.

The board also:

• learned of the hiring of Douglas A. Maggard as the LCCHS head baseball coach.

• approved the following out of state and overnight trips: Letcher County Central High School softball team plays Clintwood, Va., on April 6 in Clintwood. The Cowan Elementary School dance team has planned a trip to Sevierville, Tenn., on April 16 and April 17 to watch a dance competition. The Fleming-Neon Middle School eighth-grade trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, is scheduled for April 22 and April 23. Arlie Boggs Elementary School’s seventh- and eighth-graders will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 28. A Letcher Elementary class will visit the Hands On Museum in Johnson City, Tenn., on May 6.

• approved an agreement with Skyview Recreation Park for the Fleming-Neon Middle School baseball team to use a field during the 2016 baseball season. Season rental fee is $800.

• approved the financial report presented by Brian Johnson, district finance officer. The district’s bank balance as of Feb. 29 is $8,170,370.25, which includes $ 7,405,616.37 in the general fund and $257,821.82 in the construction fund. The board also approved payment of bills, transfers and payment of February salaries.

• learned of the following classified resignations: Roger Collins, bus driver at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School; Micah Golden, MJP bus driver; Frieda Johnson, bus monitor; Janice McPeeks, instructional assistant/ bus monitor; Markie Kilgore Polly, secretary at West Whitesburg Elementary School; and Kathy Runyon, a cook/baker at LCCHS.

• learned of the classified employment of Bennie McCall, a bus driver, and Lucky Timothy Sexton, lead custodian at LCCHS.

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