Miles and Harper Hale took advantage of the school district’s pick-up station for lunches and breakfasts on a warm Friday afternoon. Mia and Miles are the children of Shaun and Kim Hale.
Beverly Hall and her daughter Jessica Willis say they are happy to staff the pick-up station, because they miss the kids they see on their routes. Both are bus drivers.
On Friday, all “70 or 75” lunches they brought to the Ravenna park were picked up by students. The day before, they brought 40 lunches but ran out, so they had to go back and get more.
While students are completing their non-traditional instruction packets at home, school officials and personnel worry about them having enough to eat.
“Food insecurity is a huge problem in our district,” said Superintendent Jeff Saylor during Thursday night’s school board meeting, as school board members sat further apart than usual, practicing the new “social distancing” norm.
Saylor reported that the school district gave out 1,200 meals on Thursday, or 5,000 last week, with growing demand each day.
School employees have been handing out brown bag breakfasts and lunches at South Irvine Preschool and at West Irvine Intermediate. There are also five drop off sites where parents can drive by and pick up meals, and the school district is considering opening up a couple more sites. If a family has no mode of transportation, they are encouraged to call 606-726-3060 and someone will deliver meals to them.
During the online question and answer section of the board meeting, Mary Muncie asked why the Estill County School District isn’t delivering meals directly to homes by school bus, as some neighboring counties are doing.
Superintendent Saylor said he is concerned for the safety of the drivers, of which nearly 50 percent are over the age of 60, which is considered to be the population most vulnerable to the coronavirus.
“We seem to be meeting needs at this time,” said Saylor, “but we can try something different if we need to.”
Saylor said that food service and transportation people are doing most of the meal preparation and deliveries, while some other groups and individuals have volunteered to deliver meals.
“My hat’s off [to the ones doing this],” said school board member Bryan Covey.
The “Backpack Buddies” ministry also continues, with about 300 deliveries made last week.
Schools will remain closed at least through April 20 per the recommendation of Governor Andy Beshear. According to the Board of Education Facebook page, information concerning the collection of completed student assignments and the distribution of new assignments will be made next week.
During his facilities update, Superintendent Saylor said that construction on the area technology center and the bus garage are being hampered by the rainy weather, but work still continues, as crews poured footers for the tech center in the rain on Thursday.
A pay application for the bus garage was also approved, although Saylor expressed some disappointment that more work has not been done on that site.
“I understand why they can’t work today, but it doesn’t make up for the last 15 days,” he said, stressing that the pay application was more for the metal building than for work done.
The final paperwork wrapping up the Estill Springs renovation project, as well as the Estill Springs and Middle School roofing projects, was approved by the board. Saylor said he hopes to have an open house at Estill Springs sometime in the future.
He said that construction crews are a little behind schedule, but they’ve been able to shift around the order of some of the work, allowing progress to be made. Saylor said he expects the floor slab and walls to be poured next month. A pay application of $325,470.05 for work done on the area tech center was approved.
Saylor also gave a legislative update as it pertains to the area technology center. He said that Senators Stivers and Robinson remain committed to securing funding for the center.
Before adjourning, the board approved the purchase of a third school bus, which will be funded mostly by a clean diesel grant.
*The board approved the sheriff’s department to lease a police cruiser for use by the school resource officer for $1. The Sheriff’s department will be responsible for maintenance and insurance on the cruiser.
*The board also gave approval to accept a bid for a five year contract with Irvine Community Cable for internet services.
Personnel actions for the month of March include the employment of Melissa Deaton as a teacher at the middle school; Austin Blackwell as a substitute teacher; Shanae Charlton, Dorsie Dixon, and Robin Hardy as substitute bus assistants; Ben Lay as clay target coach at the high school and Boone Tucker as assistant boy’s soccer coach at the middle school. Dedra Chaney resigned as head cheer coach at the high school and Lori Collins resigned as assistant softball coach at the middle school.
For the foreseeable future, the school board will be conducting meetings online, per a resolution passed by Attorney General Daniel Cameron.
Board members will meet virtually from their own homes, and the public is encouraged to submit questions online or by phone. Check the Estill County Board of Education Facebook page for a link to a form to submit a question, or call 606-723-2181. The meetings will be streamed live on Facebook. The next school board meeting is April 16 at 6 p.m.