Johnson says more school reopening details needed

  At least one Monroe City School Board member thinks the board is dragging and moving too slow to inform parents and staff about details of school reopening next month.

  Brandon Johnson voiced his concerns at the Thursday meeting of the board’s policy committee.

He said a list of 12 bullet points presented to the committee by Policy Committee Chairman Rick Saulsberry does not answer questions received from both the public and teachers in the system regarding the district’s re-opening plans. He said at this point the superintendent should have had detailed plans ready to satisfy anxious parents and staff.

  Saulsberry presented the 12 items, based on information he received from the Louisiana School Board Association, which listed at least 12 items not covered by the BESE Board guideline. The items were called “gap areas.” Saulsberry presented the items as drafts for the board’s possible consideration or adoption.

  However, Johnson said since the board is one month away from opening, both staff and parents need more than bullet points, but specifics.

Board member Jennifer Haneline said everyone is under pressure in light of the COVID restrictions. She said the superintendent, Brent Vidrine, is doing the best he can considering the circumstance.

Saulsberry said at least Monroe has a plan. He said Ouachita Parish Schools have no plan.

  Johnson told the Free Press after the meeting, that he was concerned about how the system would implement a policy that will allow up to 25 elementary students in a single class and still maintain social distancing at six feet apart. He said many city school classrooms normally have 25 students in packed classrooms without social distancing.

   He said the district needs specific details about how the opening will be carried out safely and how teachers and staff will be protected.
   A big question that is not being addressed, says Johnson, is what happens if a teacher or bus driver tests positive?

   He said as school opening nears, details must be given to the public.

   The superintendent is scheduled to give a report about the district’s opening on Tuesday. Saulsberry said he gave the bullet points in the policy meeting so that the Superintendent could include them in his reopening plans.

In other business, the committee reviewed several policies and tabled them so they could be revised before sending them to the full board.

    On the recommendation of Saulsberry, Tuesday night the full board will consider reactivating its personnel committee. Saulsberry said state law places hiring and firing decisions in the hands of the superintendent, but the board is still responsible for making district-wide policy decisions, setting standards, and other issues such as reduction in force policies or other rules.

   The personnel committee has been dormant for over a decade.

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