Superintendent Chris Ragsdale has asked the Cobb school board to use $3.4 million from the district’s general reserve fund to pay certain employees, including after-school program and nutrition workers, who are out of work as school closures continue in response to the coronavirus.
The designated employees are not normally paid from general fund reserve, so the board will have to approve the reallocation, Ragsdale said. The money will be used to pay those employees the same amount they would normally receive through the end of May.
“This is territory that has never been traversed, and, as we see, the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance is changing every day,” Ragsdale told the MDJ on Wednesday. “That being said, one of the most important things we can do ... is we need to be making sure we’re taking care of every team member so they can take care of their families.”
If school closures are to be lifted before the end of the school year, he said, the designated employees will return to normal payroll arrangements.
The superintendent said the district’s reserves can “absolutely sustain this cost.” One month of reserve is about $90 million, he said, and the district will still have more than that available in the reserve fund.
The school board will convene for online business meetings beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, and in addition to the superintendent’s pay request, as well as a long list of other items through a teleconference.
Ragsdale said the district has tested out the teleconferencing technology and, while it might look strange, he said he expects the meeting to go smoothly.
“I feel very confident about the public being able to access the meeting online,” he said.
The online meeting will not, however, give the public a chance to make comments, as in-person meetings always do.
Board members say the public seems to understand, given the government’s guidelines recommending less than 10 people in one location.
“There’s no short-notice agenda item on there. I wish there was a way that people might want to give their public opinion to any one item, but there’s other ways, too. I get emails all the time ... and I give them an answer,” said board member Randy Scamihorn.
Chairman Brad Wheeler said it’s disappointing to not have the opportunity to hear from the public, but everyone has to do what they can to follow health officials’ recommendations.
“I just wish the whole thing hadn’t happened, but it did, so we’re going to deal with it,” he said.
Connie Jackson, president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, agreed, saying that while some parents and residents may have wanted to speak about the current state of coronavirus closures, as well as agenda items. But given the current situation, it’s understandable.
Live and past meetings are available at www.cobbk12.org/board/meetingonline.aspx, and to view the meeting on TV, tune to Cobb edTV on Comcast channel 24, Charter channel 182 and AT&T channel 99.
In addition to the payroll item, Ragsdale is asking the board to approve items including:
♦ A $39.9 million contract with Carroll Daniel Construction for additions and modifications to Campbell High School, including new classrooms, a new 750-seat theater, a new gym; tennis court and track resurfacing; technology, security and network upgrades; various athletic facility improvements; band and choral equipment; and lighting and flooring replacements. Expected completion date for those additions and modifications is July 2022.
♦ A $9.4 million contract with AstroTurf/Sports Turf Company for the replacement of artificial turf at all 16 high schools’ playfields. Replacements are expected to be complete in January.
♦ A $1.8 million contract with Mobile Modular Management for the purchase or lease and installation of 79 portable classrooms, or trailers, to be placed across the district during various construction projects.
♦ A contract with Mid Atlantic Renovation for flooring and theater seat replacements at Campbell Middle School ($791,240), as well as contract with Oak Construction Group for flooring replacements at Palmer Middle School ($660,000), Keheley ($240,500) and Kincaid ($285,000) elementary schools, Lindley Sixth Grade Academy ($445,000) and Riverside Primary School ($336,000). The flooring replacements are expected to be complete in July.
♦ A $444,000 contract with Triad Construction Company for renovations to Harrison High School’s food court. The renovations are expected to be complete in July.
♦ A $1.5 million contract with Addison Smith Mechanical for cooling tower replacements at Sprayberry and Lassiter high schools.
♦ A $725,000 contract with Triad Construction Company for replacement of a kitchen freezer and cooler at Baker and Addison elementary schools.