HAMLER – With a busy Monday night agenda, local schools Patrick Henry gathered for the annual organizational meeting and the first meeting of the year. At the first meeting, improvements in technology and facilities were discussed.
After electing Mark Vennekotter as the new chairman for 2022 and Thomas Taylor as the new vice chairman, the board moved on to its first regular meeting of the year.
The board received proclamation certificates from the governor’s office recognizing their “time hours each week to provide leadership to their local schools.” The proclamations also mentioned the support that local councils have provided during the COVID pandemic.
In addition, the board received handwritten and colorful thank you notes from some third grade students in the district. Most of the thank you cards mentioned the newly renovated elementary playground and how the students appreciate the “fake grass” that was installed.
Dustin Ruffell, CTO at Patrick Henry, then reported on the K-12 cybersecurity conversation taking place in the state which is governed by federal law and insurance requirements.
According to Ruffell, the three most common topics are multi-factor authentication (2FA / MFA), endpoint detection and response (EDR) in modern antivirus software, and staff training. Patrick Henry has implemented initiatives to deal with all of these subjects and continues to position himself to be able to make the necessary adjustments. Specifically, the district will finalize the application of the AMF to all staff, volunteer and coach accounts starting in February, an initiative the district has been working on since the end of the 2020-21 school year.
Superintendent Dr Josh Biederstedt spoke to the board about the 2022-2023 school calendar in accordance with HB 49 requirements.
Biederstedt pointed out that the district allows staff to vote on one of four options. One of the options is offered by the certified union. Although the most popular calendar does not have to be chosen, it is often chosen for the following year.
The most popular calendar for next year includes a start date during the last week of August. Additionally, the calendar will include the parent-teacher set up around the Thanksgiving vacation that the district has used for the past two years.
The calendar includes 10 school days off for the Christmas holidays with the last day of school at the end of May.
Biederstedt also informed the board of the work being finalized for summer 2022. This work will be referred to as Phase 4 improvements, with the initial phase being in 2018.
Phase 3 involved a large amount of high school work with a complete makeover. Phase 4 will involve continued work on the 2004 college building. This building has its own permanent improvement account which had to be created during its construction in accordance with state guidelines at the time. This money will help the district continue to change the flooring in some of the classrooms on the first floor.
Two bedrooms were fitted out last summer and the response from the staff has been very positive. In addition, the work will include the removal of the existing VCT in the hallways of the 2004 building and the installation of epoxy, such as high school.
Finally, the 2004 building will see the elementary music room modernized with new flooring and acoustic tiles.
In addition to the work in the 2004 building, the football field will have its surface removed and new peat will be installed. The playing surface has become a danger in recent years. The district explored several solutions and, after collecting input from many stakeholders, decided to install a new lawn. This cost will come from the money of the 2019 COPs.
The board also heard an update on how schools in Henry County are working with the health department to form more realistic and logical approaches to COVID contact tracing in the school setting.
With the rise of the Omicron variant, the ability to effectively contact the trace in a timely manner has become unsustainable. Biederstedt said the district is working on updated procedures with a focus on positive cases, family contact, general notification to students / families and direct communication with parents of medically fragile students who may be affected. by someone with COVID in their classroom / grade level.
COVID and other illnesses are common in communities, so parents may assume their children are exposed to some form of the illness at some point. Taking appropriate precautions will help keep students / staff safe and keep them in school more often.
Patrick Henry Schools continue to encourage students and staff to wear masks, wash their hands, limit large gatherings and closely monitor COVID and other symptoms of illness. If a child is showing symptoms, Biederstedt advised parents to keep them at home and have them tested. Most schools have test kits available upon request.
The superintendent also committed to briefing school district staff and families throughout the week.