Whitesburg KY

Changes await Jenkins students when classes begin next week

Students in the Jenkins Independent School System will start school next week with a new superintendent, a raise in cafeteria costs, and questions about the possibility of fuel surcharges being added to athletic activities. Renovations made on all three campuses and a new heating and cooling system for the middle high school, although not complete, will not delay the opening of schools.

Superintendent Debbie Watts, who participated in her first school board meeting, said she was pleased with the way staff members have worked to overcome problems with the construction and thanked the board for its confidence in hiring her. Watts said the first day for students will be Thursday, August 7, and she has community open houses planned at each school to meet community members and parents. Watts told the board her goal is to have the Jenkins system regularly place in the top 10 academic schools in the state.

Architect Wayne Clayton of CS Design told the board that recent rains and cold weather in the spring semester combined to delay work on replacing the roof at Jenkins Middle High School and roof repairs on other schools. The contractor, Elliot Co., was unable to work on days when it was too cold to use the roofing tar or in heavy rains, and that Den, the interior contractor, in replacing ceiling tiles and lights. Clayton said most of the repairs are complete and work will be scheduled for evening hours to keep from disturbing classes. Clayton also pointed to delays from state-mandated changes to a biology lab at the middle high school.

Superintendent Watts told the board there is still quite a bit of work to be done to the middle high school building and JMHS Principal Teresa Bentley said although air vents in some classrooms haven’t been installed, there are ample window units in case some rooms don’t have air conditioning. Bentley said the air conditioning system works well and most rooms are on-line, but problems with vents in some may make it necessary to use the window units. Board Chair Durward Narramore Jr. said there are still problems in the band room and other places, but Superintendent Watts said the ongoing work will not delay the opening of school.

Board member Tracy Goff, who is an engineer with Summit Engineering, said he doesn’t recommend paying Elliot’s recent invoice until the problems have been corrected and some work which will have to be redone is completed. Goff said he favors withholding payment until the board is satisfied with Elliot’s work. Board chair Narramore agreed and said he wouldn’t mind holding Elliot’s payment as well.

“The architect said the work in the payment request is done,” said Goff. “But a lot of it has to be redone and until it is, I don’t favor paying Elliot, until all the work in the invoice has been done.”

Goff made a motion to withhold payment to Elliot until the August meeting and the board voted unanimously in favor of his motion. The board also voted unanimously to pay the Bri-Den invoice.

District Finance Officer Candala Gibson asked the board to consider the possibility of adding a fuel surcharge for extracurricular activities during the financial report. Gibson told the board she had been concerned with the impact of rising fuel costs and pointed to a front-page article in the July 28 edition of The Lexington Herald-Leader about similar concerns in school districts in the Lexington area. Gibson said extracurricular activities account for approximately 15 percent of the school district’s total transportation costs and recommended a $1 per mile levy be paid by the various activities.

Athletic Director Jerry Bentley said that even the “money” sports like football and basketball would be hard pressed to pay such a charge and would have to do extra fundraising. He added he didn’t know how the spring sports, such as golf, track, softball, and other non-revenue sports, could manage since they already raise their own funds and run on very tight budgets. Board members Paul Stambaugh and Tracy Goff both said they felt it would make it very difficult for the sports and other programs to pay the fuel surcharge and said it would be best for the board to continue to support extracurricular programs for as long as possible.

“This is a small district,” said Goff. “We’re limited financially in what we can do for the programs and most of them depend on funds they raise themselves. I’d like to continue to support them on fuel until it isn’t possible any longer. We should do it because it’s the best thing to do rather than because we can.”

Gibson also suggested revising schedules to keep activities closer to home. She said she hadn’t meant for the board to actually adopt a fuel surcharge that evening but wanted to give it some things to consider as fuel gets more expensive. She told the board budgets will be tight for the year anyway.

Board member Benji Prunty said he didn’t think it was too great an imposition to ask athletic supporters for help with fuel costs or to ask for help from parent teacher organizations, but Goff replied that they are already doing that to buy uniforms and other supplies. Prunty said if fuel continues to go up the board will be forced to consider other measures.

Athletic Director Bentley said schedules for the coming school year are locked in by contract, and the unique nature of the 14th District creates a distance problem for Jenkins. The district stretches from Jenkins to Stanton in Powell County and Beattyville in Lee County and Jenkins is at one extreme of the boundary. He said it would have been worse if the Kentucky High School Athletic Association had placed Jenkins in the 15th District with the Pikeville schools as had originally been suggested. Chairman Narramore told the board that at one time the board had a surcharge, but it had simply disappeared.

JMHS Principal Bentley said in future schedules they could try to limit the number of away games, and other schools in the district would face similar problems. She said the system could impose a surcharge on some community events like a coming beauty pageant and gladiator fights at the school, but Jerry Bentley said there are already surcharges on the gladiator fights that go to the programs that help with the clean-up after the events. Narramore said in any event, the board should consider the eventuality of higher fuel costs and suggested it address it in its planning.

“Anyway we do this, it won’t be popular,” said Narramore. “I’ve been here forever and we’ve always done all we could to help and we will continue, but at some point we may have to make a choice. We don’t want to have to choose between athletics and academics so we should address this now. I would rather have the principals come up with some ideas. We can address it and come up with a plan or we can let it hit us in the face later.”

The board took no action on Gibson’s proposal, but agreed to take the matter into consideration and look at plans submitted by the principals and athletic staff. Gibson also asked the board to schedule a special meeting to finalize the budget for the coming year. The board will meet on August 11 at 6 p.m. at the Central Office.

In other business:

. The board voted to adopt a request from Food Service Director Susan Baker to increase the cost of student and adult meals in the cafeteria. The cost for breakfast will go from 80 cents to $1, student lunch from $1.20 to $1.50 and adult lunch from $2.50 to $3.20. Baker said food costs have gone up by 11.43 percent.

. Superintendent Watts told the board that long-time Central Office employee Ruth Tackett would undergo surgery at the University of Kentucky Medical Center on the following day. Watts said the staff misses her and hopes she returns soon

. JMHS Principal Teresa Bentley reported Jenkins Community Hospital will provide free physicals for all participants on athletic teams at Jenkins schools. Bentley also said that as yet, no football coach has been hired to replace Lincoln Bentley, but the position has been advertised. Bentley said JMHS has a social studies position and a health and physical education position open and hopes to find a coach who can fill one of the open teaching positions. She said they are looking for a quality coach and quality classroom teachers and the ideal candidate would be both.

. The board voted unanimously to update the Student Handbook to address the bullying laws, Advanced Placement guidelines, and to have all endof year award ceremonies on the same day.

. The board accepted the bid for soft drink service from Coca- Cola and the bid for student photographs from McEachern Photography of Loudon, Tenn.

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