Aberdeen School District administrative assistant Sharon Gladney shakes hands with school board president Jim Edwards after being presented with an appreciation certificate from superintendent Jeff Clay for School District Administrative Assistants/Board Clerks Week.

ABERDEEN – Members of the Aberdeen High School Class of 2021 will receive their diplomas in a more traditional means May 25, compared to last year. During April 19’s Aberdeen School Board meeting, district superintendent Jeff Clay shared details about the outdoor ceremony on the football field.

“Each graduate will get 12 tickets, and we’ll make sure we’re following guidelines with masks and ask families to sit together and skip rows,” Clay said, adding there will be approximately 50 graduates. “With 12 tickets, that’s approximately 600 guests so if inclement weather forces us indoors, we would not have to come back and say, ‘You had 12 tickets and now you only have eight.’”

Due to COVID-19 uncertainties last year and to ensure a ceremony, AHS pre-recorded students receiving their diplomas and showed graduation on an inflatable screen in the parking lot.

Clay added the district will try to return to a traditional routine for the ‘21-’22 school year while following any Centers of Disease and Control guidelines in place.

In other business, the school board approved a preliminary estimate for a new HVAC system at AHS, which is between $900,000 and $950,000.

The district received approximately $2.1 million in federally-funded Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief-2 money, which is geared towards ventilation projects. The high school has a split HVAC system in that the school and gym areas can’t be cooled at the same time.

In another improvement matter, Clay introduced discussion about potential athletics facility upgrades.

“They need some work like lighting. At the softball fields, we’re going to need some fencing, bleachers and some work on our concession stand bathrooms. Our football field could use some work, along with the baseball fields,” Clay said.

He has talked to the coaches about developing a plan for potential upgrades for the future.

Clay asked for school board members’ thoughts on how they’d like for the district to approach a school resource officer plan before talking to Monroe County Sheriff Kevin Crook about options.

“We’re in the process of trying to nail down a budget and put some numbers on paper, and I really want to get some guidance from the board,” he said.

School board member Tonny Oliver preferred at least two SROs, Sandra Peoples suggested having someone with expertise in areas such as the D.A.R.E. program and affiliation, and Jim Edwards said he wanted the SRO(s) to be employed by the district so it defines the work schedules.

“This situation when they work for someone else leaves us a little bit handicapped,” Edwards said.

Oliver and board attorney Nathaniel Armistad asked about the district’s interlocal agreement regarding SROs in that context.

“If you work for the sheriff’s department or the police department, you flip a switch and all of the lights are going to come on. If they work for the district and haven’t been trained under their umbrella, then the light may come on or it may fizzle out,” Peoples said.

The school board approved a summer learning plan, which includes remediation and enrichment.

“Because students have been out of school, we have witnessed – across the state and across the nation – learning loss,” said district chief academics officer Temeka Shannon. “We have students we are going to provide remediation to to catch those students up and also provide an enrichment, which expands on the knowledge for those students who are already at or above grade level.”

The program will begin May 22 at AHS for credit recovery and June 14 at Aberdeen Elementary School and Belle-Shivers Middle School.

Clay added learning loss is an issue experienced by several of his colleagues in different states.

As part of personnel matters, the school board approved to hire an assistant principal for AES and a math/science teacher for all three schools. The math/science coach will be federally funded, while the assistant principal position will be locally funded.

In recapping budget matters, chief financial officer Latasha Campbell said the district’s ending balance for March’s cash flow statement was approximately $8 million. She projects the district to have $7.5 million in cash on hand at the end of June.

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