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by Patty Cheffey
Beginning May 24, wearing a mask on the Palmyra R-I School campus will become voluntary.
During their meeting last week, the R-I Board of Education reviewed the 2021-22 school year back to school plan and adopted the new policy. Also during their meeting, the board discussed the preliminary budget, heard a legislative update, heard a report on the CCC winter sportsmanship and filled several teaching and coaching positions.
According to Superintendent Kirt Malone, wearing a mask will become voluntary for students and staff during the school day, and the same option will apply for student and staff who participate in events and activities outside of the school day.
“Beginning May 24, everything will go back to pre-pandemic procedures for all school activities, in every building,” said Malone. “The school will continue to provide additional cleaning and disinfecting like we have during the pandemic months, and we will continue to provide contact tracing for COVID-19.”
Lunch routines, including eating in the lunchrooms, and classroom set ups will also go back to pre-pandemic norms, he added.
During old business, the board also discussed the 2021-22 preliminary budget, which reflects full funding of the state foundation formula and an increase of about 2 percent in local funding, Malone said, adding state transportation payments will continue to fall well below the mandated funding requirements for public schools.
Also included in the budget will be funds for an additional first grade teacher.
“We added a first grade classroom because we have 93 students enrolled in kindergarten who will be moving on to first grade next year,” Malone said. “We currently have four sections of first grade, and adding the fifth section will keep classroom sizes around 18 to 19 students in first grade.”
The budget includes a $1,250 increase to base salary for teachers in addition to vertical movement on the salary schedule for years of service, Malone added, noting the base salary will be $36,000 for teachers next year. The budget also includes an increase in substitute teacher pay to $85 per day.
In addition, an increase of 12.9 percent for staff health insurance premiums, as well as a new school bus are included.
Malone noted the district had learned earlier this year health insurance premiums would be going up for the consortium in which the school participates.
The board also approved the 2021-2022 salary schedule as presented.
In other business, Malone presented a legislative update for the board, noting the Missouri General Assembly continues to write and pass legislation which is “damaging to Missouri public schools and our students.”
“Last week the Senate passed a tax voucher credit bill that will pull at least $50 million from state general revenues every year from now on. That is tax money that would have been paid to the State of Missouri but will now be allowed to go directly to fund private schools in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield,” Malone said, noting the senator representing Northeast Missouri voted for this bill which does not help this area. “This is money that the state will not have to educate students in public schools, fix roads and bridges, support social services or to help fund every other department in Missouri.
“The primary intent of the bill is to circumvent the primary funding mechanism for our state and send tax dollars to wealthy private school students in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia and Springfield,” he added.
The board reviewed the Clarence Cannon Conference 2020-2021 Winter Sportsmanship results.
Palmyra received a perfect score of four in every area of the sportsmanship survey, which for winter sports includes boys and girls basketball players, coaches, cheerleaders and spectators.
The board accepted the resignations of Nicholas Koetters as high school social studies teacher, high school cross country coach, and varsity girls track coach, of Amanda Griesbaum as high school science teacher and of Tia Holman as middle school Builders Club sponsor.
The board also hired several personnel, including: Bethany Armontrout, middle school math teacher; Tara Blankenship, second grade teacher; Macy Bross, varsity girls track coach; Josh Buatte, high school social studies teacher and assistant varsity track coach; Alicia Carper, high school science teacher; Kalli Gordanier, first grade teacher; Ashton Gottman, varsity cross country coach; and Christy Lovegreen, high school special education teacher.
The board hired classified staff and summer maintenance staff as presented and approved the updated substitute teacher list.
The district is still looking for a middle school English teacher, middle school girls basketball coach and two varsity boys basketball coaches.
Josh Edwards provided the annual report on district technology.
The IT staff continues to repair damaged iPads in-house at a lower cost than sending them off to be repaired.
All wireless access points were upgraded throughout the district this year, and the district entered into a new three-year lease with Apple on Generation 7 iPads for staff and students as well as purchased 25 new MacBooks for the high school business lab.
The board also:
• accepted Heimer Construction’s bid to renovate parking lots at the elementary and middle School this summer;
• approved the Marion County Local Hazard Mitigation Plan as presented.
• heard a first reading of MSBA policy update 2021A; and
• learned the MSBA Fall Conference will be held in Kansas City Nov. 4-7.