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Jenkins board votes to cancel spring break

Citing the need to make up 29 days of classes already missed because of bad weather and other issues, the Jenkins Independent Board of Education has voted unanimously to cancel a weeklong spring vacation for students and teachers that had been scheduled to begin April 4.

The board took the action at its February meeting after Superintendent Deborah Watts said as many of the missed days as possible need to be made up so that students can be prepared for the standardized testing that comes later this year.

“We want to make sure we have students and teachers in school as many days as possible,” said Watts.

“We want to cover as much of the core contents as possible so our students will not be at a disadvantage.”

As of this week, Jenkins students had missed 24 days because of bad weather, four days because of a feared swine flu outbreak, and one day because of a broken water line.

The board discussed several alternatives to cancelling spring break including going to school on Saturday and extending the school day. Watts told the board that attendance is usually very poor for Saturday sessions. Board member Eileen Sanders suggested using Saturday sessions to hold growth and development sessions for teachers.

The elimination of spring break means the last of day of classes for the district would be June 6 unless the state Department of Education grants calamity days to local districts. Board Vice Chair Tracy Goff introduced the motion to eliminate spring vacation while retaining the Memorial Day holiday.

In other business, the board’s “Student/Staff Spotlight” was placed on the middle school academic team, which did very well in recent district and regional competition. The team’s coach, Hannah Harris, introduced the team members and listed the accomplishments of each.

Harlan Honeycutt of Jenkins Middle School placed fifth in the middle school mathematics assessment and fourth in math in the Governor’s Cup Regional. Sarah Gilley placed fourth in composition in district competition. Patrick Sturgill placed first in language arts and arts and humanities in the district, and fifth in arts and humanities in the Governor’s Cup Regional. Jenkins Middle School was fourth overall in district standings.

In the KVAL Junior Varsity Tournament, Kevin Brashear placed first in math and Brook Puckett placed fourth. Brashear also placed third in science and Michael Kelly placed ninth. Josiah Whitaker and Michael Kelly tied for fourth in social studies. Jessica Mullins placed ninth in language arts and fourth in arts and humanities. Josiah Whitaker placed 10th in arts and humanities.

In the KVAL Varsity Tournament, Brandi Mullins placed 10th in math, seventh in science, and fifth in arts and humanities. Samantha Potter placed seventh in social studies and eight in language arts.

In the High School District Tournament, Brook Puckett placed fourth in mathematics assessment and Jessica Mullins placed fifth in language arts. Jenkins High School placed eighth overall.

District Financial Officer Candala Gibson told the board that while the final budget will have to wait for the completion of the current legislative session, she has “kind of halted spending.” Superintendent Watts joked that Gibson was “getting good at saying no.”

Gibson said that the schools in the system have already pretty much spent their allotted funding on instructional materials anyway. Board Chair Durward Narramore Jr. said they should just try to finish the year without spending any more. He said the board has given the schools everything they have asked for and now is the time to be teaching and using every available minute for that purpose.

Melissa Sturgill, program coordinator of the Letcher County Prevention Project, urged the board to allow Jenkins Schools to participate in a grant application to facilitate drug testing. She said the grant would provide the necessary equipment for testing. Sturgill said the grant will provide $125,000 per year and will require a $125,000 match. She said the application is due March18 and they will know by September if they will receive it.

JMHS art teacher Gina Sparks asked the board to consider creating a middle school girls’ volleyball team. She said at present, the high school team is the only volleyball program for girls and it would benefit considerably by having girls already trained in volleyball coming into the program. Sparks said she would volunteer to coach the team at no salary to teach the fundamentals of volleyball and would work closely with high school coaches to ensure the same instruction going to high school players is provided for middle school players.

Board member Goff said he supports the concept but the board will have to figure out what the costs are and if it can afford them. Narramore agreed and said the board always tries to give students as many opportunities to participate as possible, but it has to do things legally. Narramore said for now, there can be open gym and will discuss it further at a special meeting planned for Tuesday, March 2.

The board voted to allow a fundraising concert by country music performer Justin Moore after a lengthy discussion about insurance, profit distribution, and the possibility of losing money on ticket sales. Harvey Tackett, who is one of the principle sponsors, assured the board that language will be included in the contract to protect the school system in the event of a cancellation and that the liability insurance will be more than adequate for the show.

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