The Morgan County R-II School District Board of Education Monday, July 20, managed to approve some “usual and customary” items typical of the July meeting before moving on to the overarching question of the night, which was the proposed plan for reopening school in the fall.

A letter drafted Tuesday, July 21 outlined the initial plan for district reopening and was published in last week’s Leader-Statesman.

Essentially, school will be opening as normally as possible in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The first day of school in Aug. 24. Contingency plans include categories of response based on several possible scenarios of COVID-19 transmission. Updates to the plan are slated to come this week.

Superintendent Steven Barnes said he is working with the county to acquire money to purchase items and/or make modifications to the facilities to help with safely reopening school. These things may include partitions in offices, Plexiglas® shields for close work in classrooms, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other coronavirus-related items.

“If we do nothing and it [COVID-19] explodes, and we have to shut down, that would be worse than the restrictions we will have to have in place,” Barnes said.

Also on the table for the school board was considering revised meal prices ($2.40 for elementary breakfast and $2.95 for elementary lunch); approving the fuel bid for buses (five cents under posted price at the pump); and renewing the Success for All and Special Learning Center contracts.

A proposed health insurance amendment to the district’s self-funded policy was considered. The amendment affects regular part-time employees, mostly bus drivers. Currently, the policy reads that to qualify for health insurance, an employee would have to be a regular part-time worker, putting in at least 20 hours a week. Board members discussed “moving the threshold” to reduce the hourly requirement to 15 hours per week. Regular part-time employees pay 50 percent of what the district would normally pay. The move to 15 hours was approved by the board.

A bus driver handbook was reviewed by the board.

A public comments form, designed to allow citizens in the district to address the school board more conveniently, was considered.

Currently, a person has to request to be on the agenda as least five days in advance of the school board meeting. The proposed easing of this restriction, would allow designated time in each school board meeting for public comment, limited to a certain amount of time per speaker and/or topic.

The annual tax rate hearing will take place Monday, Aug. 17, prior to the board’s regular meeting, scheduled 6 p.m. in the middle school library. The 6 p.m. start time will be the normal start time from now on (changed from 7 p.m. previously).