By Crystal Burns
Bradford Special School District officials are breathing a little easier.
At the school board’s Sept. 28 meeting, superintendent Dan Black and principals Kelly Knott and Shane Paschall said COVID-19 concerns have eased since Labor Day. All three credited students, families, and teachers for making in-person learning possible.
“If we can make it through this week, then we’ve had three good weeks,” Black said. “Our students and our administrators and our teachers are doing a really good job of making sure we have masks, making sure we stay apart. That’s going to be the key. If we don’t do those things, then we won’t be having school as much as we’d like to. All of it has gone really well the last three weeks.”
When the board met on Aug. 24, in-person learning had been suspended, and all students were attending school virtually. The district switched to digital learning for eight days because seven positive COVID-19 cases had resulted in 71 students quarantining.
Black said last week that the district had two COVID-19 cases in the elementary school and one in the high school with another possible case there. One staff member was quarantined.
“Teachers are doing a fantastic job,” said Knott, principal of Bradford Elementary School. “Students are very compliant. Parents are as well. It almost seems somewhat semi-normal right now. We’ve gotten used to what we have to do, and we’re doing it.”
“The kids have done really well,” said Paschall, principal of Bradford High School. “Since Labor Day, pretty much everybody that’s supposed to be here has been here.”
Both principals said their virtual numbers have declined as more families are sending their students back to school for in-person instruction. Knott said BES began the year with more than 40 students choosing the virtual option. She’s now down to 12 or 13. Paschall said his numbers are down to 14, with about half of virtual learners returning to school.
TSSAA regulations – The board voted to adopt Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association (TSSAA) regulations for fan attendance at basketball games. TSSAA recommends that member schools limit capacity to 33%. Paschall said that under the suggested limits, the Bradford gym would accommodate 230 people. He said he would like to provide tickets to Bradford players’ and cheerleaders’ families first and send any remaining (he estimated 70) to the visiting school.
In its vote, the board gave Black and Paschall authority to make any adjustments if the TSSAA or local guidance changes.
New sexual harassment policy – Black reviewed the first reading of a new policy addressing Title IX and sexual harassment that the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) sent its member schools to satisfy state law. The policy covers employees, employees’ behaviors, students, and students’ behaviors on school property, at any school-sponsored activity, on school-provided equipment or transportation, or at any official school bus stop in accordance with federal law.
The policy expands the definition of sexual harassment to include sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, or stalking as defined in state and federal law.
The board struggled with its responsibility to choose the preponderance of the evidence standard or the clear and convincing evidence standard to be used in making determination of responsibility when a complaint is filed and investigated. Longtime board member Mark Hampton said it’s the first time in his memory that TSBA has sent the school a policy that asks the board to make a choice. In a memo to member schools, the TSSAA strongly recommended that boards work with their attorneys to determine the standard to use.
The Bradford board chose to use the clear and convincing evidence standard.
Supervisor of Instruction Jerry Diviney is Bradford’s Title IX coordinator and will handle any sexual harassment complaints. His contact information, including school mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address must be posted on the district website.
Moore honored – Black honored Dr. Kelvin Moore, presenting him with a plaque in appreciation of his 18 years on the school board. Moore did not seek re-election in August.
“For 18 years, it was my privilege to serve alongside board members, two directors of schools, teachers, administrators and staff who are/were committed to the education of the students in the Bradford Special School District,” Moore said. “These people come/came to work every day, motivated to make an impact and change lives. The success our school system has enjoyed across these years, academically and athletically, gives testimony to their tireless dedication. My responsibility, I felt, was basically to attempt to support them. I will always be appreciative of the great people of Bradford for allowing me, a transplant from Alabama, to serve them in such a lofty manner.”