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Ashland City School Board (June 15, 2020)

ASHLAND -- Ashland City School District has a plan in place to assure at least Kindergarten through fifth grade students will be able to return for daily, in-person classes Tuesday, Sept. 8, barring no further state restrictions.

The district’s Board of Education approved a modified school calendar at its Monday meeting, which includes more professional development days for teachers and delays the first day of the 2020-21 school year from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8 for all students. 

“It is for the full district, but we want parents to know K through 5 kids will be in school each day, every day,” Superintendent Doug Marrah said. “We have a plan. We have space. We’re going to make that happen.” 

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Sixth through 12th grade students will follow the same school calendar, but the district is still working through how social distancing measures might be implemented within their classrooms and school buildings. 

Further, measures were taken Monday to prepare the school to again “flip the switch” to remote, online education if needed during the fall semester. 

The school board approved purchasing a learning management system for July 1 through June 30, 2021 for $39,980 and up to 140 additional Chromebooks for no more than $25,000. Additional Chromebooks may also be added later this summer. 

The learning management system from Infrastructure (Canvas) was purchased with federal relief dollars, and the cost of the Chromebooks will be evenly split between permanent improvements and the general fund. 

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Superintendent Doug Marrah speaks at the June 14th Ashland City Board of Education meeting.

“We don’t (and won’t) have enough for every student, but we want to build capacity,” Marrah said. 

He believes the district could have between 2,600 and 2,700 Chromebooks before the beginning of the new school year. He explained how many students opt to use their own technology, allowing the district to accommodate any technology needs without having a 1-to1 ratio of Chromebooks to students. 

Even if the school year proceeds normally, this technology would allow teachers to “flip the classroom,” or provide a “blended learning environment,” Marrah said. Particularly older students may be asked to watch videos before class, so teachers could use in-person time to “intervene,” and work more directly with students. 

This significant change to how classrooms could function contributes to why the school calendar was revised. Though students won’t begin class until after Labor Day weekend, teachers would begin Aug. 31 with five days of professional development around the new learning management system. 

Throughout the school year, five additional professional development (teacher exchange days) are scheduled. 

Ashland City Teachers Association (ACTA) president Melissa Baker asked that a meeting be arranged between the board and association to sign a memorandum of understanding about the modified calendar. She cited changes in the number of student versus professional development days that would violate the agreed upon contact. 

“We’ll have to sit down and have that conversation about agreeing to change the work days and the work conditions for teachers,” Baker said. 

“I’m not saying it’s going to be a problem. I’m saying we haven’t been informed,” she continued. 

In other news at Monday’s meeting: 

The Ashland City School District Board of Education approved temporarily reduced fall and winter head coaching contracts. 

These supplemental contracts will initially be paid at 50 percent their usual worth, but are expected to be paid at 100 percent if fall and winter sports seasons return to normal. 

“We’re just starting out proactively, so we’re starting at 50 percent,” Marrah said. “They’re starting to do workouts right now, so we wanted to get them started, but we know something could happen, so we’re just starting to pay half… It makes more sense that we want to hope for the best, but plan for the worst across the board.” 

The school board approved the sale of the former central office building at 416 Arthur Street.

The building was sold to Schwab Development LLC for $10,000. The building had been vacated since 2016, Marrah said. 

The board approved a resolution to place a 1.25 permanent improvement renewal levy on the November ballot.

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