Dalton Public Schools will hire a Coronavirus Prevention and Response Coordinator for the new school year to help the system with a variety of needs related to COVID-19.
"This person would be a nurse, and we would be better off to let a medical official handle this," said Superintendent Tim Scott. "This is so big I felt we really needed some help there."
This person would assist with contact tracing if a student or staff member has COVID-19, Scott said. He or she would also lead in educating students, staff and families about the virus, as well as provide health and safety tips.
Dalton Public Schools will now start classes on Aug. 31. The system plans a hybrid schedule for the first two weeks of the new school year, with half of students attending two days per week (Monday and Tuesday) and the other half attending the other two days (Thursday and Friday) with Wednesday being a digital learning day for all. Then, on Sept. 14, traditional, daily, in-person classes are slated to begin for all students (except those who opt for total online education).
"We know people are going to get" coronavirus at some point during the year, but handling and responding to those cases will be key, Scott said. "We're not promised a virus-free environment."
Dalton Public Schools already has a contract with the Whitfield County Health Department for nurses, so the Coronavirus Prevention and Response Coordinator would be added to that existing agreement, said Mendy Woods, chief human resources officer for Dalton Public Schools. He or she would be "the one point of contact" for COVID-19 matters, a repository of record keeping and oversee health screenings at schools.
"It seems like a great idea," and it's a "proactive move," said Matt Evans, chairman of the Dalton Board of Education. "I love the fact it's a medical professional."
Palmer Griffin, the board's vice chairman, was similarly enthusiastic about adding this position, saying "I'm all for it."
Also during Monday's meeting, the board of education approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2021 budget for $134,000 from the general fund.
This money will be used to hire bus monitors, who would take temperatures of students before boarding buses as well as asking health screening questions, and part-time workers who would do those same tasks at schools, said Theresa Perry, chief financial officer of Dalton Public Schools. While "we're not sure if we can get the 30 bus monitors, let alone 11" screeners for schools, "we do see the need for them, and we want to do it if possible," hence the request for funds.
The board also approved a second fiscal year 2021 budget amendment, for $30,000, Monday.
That's from the capital projects fund, rather than the general fund, Perry said. The money is to repair the west staircase in The 101 Building, at the corner of Crawford Street and Thornton Avenue.
Finally Monday, the board heard an update on construction of Hammond Creek, a school for students in grades six and seven that will open for the 2021-22 academic year across from Dalton Middle School, as well as the Junior Achievement Discovery Center on the Hammond Creek campus.
While "we've had some uphill battles like everyone (in terms of) material procurement, we've battled through, and things are going really well" at Hammond Creek, said Eric Labbe, senior project manager for Carroll Daniel Construction. "Painting is close to being finished," and the exterior "is starting to take shape, (with) landscaping scheduled for this week."
As for the Junior Achievement Discovery Center, "we hit the ground running," Labbe said. "The whole shell is up now, and we're moving along quite well."
The Junior Achievement Discovery Center will feature more than a dozen classrooms, a 140-seat commons area with a stage, meeting space, a training room and a general purpose room, as well as hosting multiple Junior Achievement programs. Though it will be on Dalton Public Schools property and will be a draw for Dalton Public Schools students, children in school systems throughout northwest Georgia will be able to visit the center and benefit from its enrichment.