BB School Board Discusses COVID-19 in Addition to Preschool & Upcoming Budget Hearing

BB School Board Discusses COVID-19 in Addition to Preschool & Upcoming Budget Hearing
Regular water fountains at Broken Bow Public Schools are closed and only the water bottle filling fountains are available due to COVID-19.

BROKEN BOW—The Broken Bow Public Schools (BBPS) Board of Education met in regular session on Monday, August 17 and approved the contract with Chief Construction to begin construction on the preschool addition project starting September 1. (Click here for the August 17 story.)

The preschool will allow for shared resources between the elementary and preschool and bring long-term cost savings by condensing the number of buildings within the district. Superintendent Darren Tobey said there is no plan for the Custer school at this point. The addition to North Park will feature three classrooms, work space, and a fourth classroom to be used for various indoor activities.

“The kids are still getting everything that we need our kids to have and we’re excited about the possibilities of having our preschool over at North Park starting next fall,” Tobey said.

Mr. Tobey outlined how the $1.899 million project will be paid for:

“How we’re going to pay for that preschool building is we’ll tax through our special building fund to our taxpayers so whatever we tax in our special building fund we’re going to take out of our general fund. So an example of that would be if we needed to tax two cents out of our special building fund, we’re going to drop two cents out of our general fund so we’re not asking for any more funds from our community members. So it will be a complete wash, just coming out of a different account. The lease purchase [agreement] allows us seven years to borrow that money and pay that back yearly,” Tobey said.

Click below for the full interview with Darren Tobey from Tuesday, August 18.

The Broken Bow School Board on August 17, 2020.

No administrators were present at the Monday night meeting, board member Tim Chancellor was absent and excused from the meeting, and no one from the public was in attendance other than representatives from the media.

Policy 3057—the district’s Title IX Policy—was approved by the board. “It is the policy of the school district that no person shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any of the school district’s programs or activities,” as stated in the policy.

Policy 2006 regarding the district’s Title IX Grievance Process was tabled until the next meeting.

Treasurer J.B. Atkins said this year’s general fund ending balance is approximately $3.6 million as opposed to last year’s ending balance coming to $2.7 million. Superintendent Darren Tobey said the difference is due to a number of factors.

“There’s a couple things that come into play. There’s different entities during the course of the year that can choose to pay their taxes all at once or they can choose to pay them quarterly. This year just happens to be that we had a couple entities pay their taxes all upfront which means we’re going to have a little more revenue then we imagined for this coming year,” Tobey continued. “Being out of school since mid-March has definitely cut down on some expenses throughout the school district so without those expenses our general fund does have a little bit more cushion then what we’d normally have in a normal school year.”

Darren Tobey said work on the track is on schedule and the top coat will be applied around mid-September.

The school board work session will be held on Monday, August 31 at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to the work session at the end of this month for discussion about the preschool lease purchase agreement as well as the budget and tax levy hearings.

The next regular meeting is Monday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m. (the second Monday of the month rather than the third) in order for the board to vote on the budget and then submit to the state of Nebraska by September 20.

Both the work session and the board meeting will be held in the Broken Bow high school library.

Regarding COVID-19 in the district, Darren Tobey spoke with KCNI/KBBN and said the situation is fluid and being constantly evaluated.

“COVID is a very fluid situation, you think you have control of it one day and maybe there’s some things that happen the next day so we’ll continue to watch it and we’ll continue to update our community members on what’s going on,” Tobey said.

A weekend statement was issued by the superintendent outlining three confirmed COVID-19 staff members with positive COVID-19 test results and 24 staff members who were quarantined. School for Pre-K and 6 through 12 Grades have been cancelled through August 21. Classes for those students will resume on Monday August 24. All students in Kindergarten through Grade 5 have continued classes since Monday, August 17. The district is now requiring all students and staff to wear a mask at all times from August 17 through September 7.

On Monday night, board member Pam Holcomb said “kudos” to how the weekend was handled and acknowledged the situation is a work in progress with no one knowing how things will play out for this school year. She said she appreciated everyone’s flexibility and J.B. Atkins echoed that if wearing masks keeps kids in school and reduces the possibility for quarantining as many people at one time, it is worth it.

In an interview with KCNI/KBBN, Mr. Tobey said three total staff members tested positive for COVID-19 last week and 24 other staff members were asked to quarantine and check for symptoms. Tobey said due to graduation being held the week before school started and graduation parties being held, it was difficult to know how many people associated with the school were possibility exposed.

“Broken Bow Public Schools takes our students safety and well-being into consideration with every decision that is made. That being said, the decision to cancel school next week for all preschool and 6-12 students was strictly made due to staffing issues. This decision was made with input from the BBPS Board of Education, local medical professionals, and the Loup Basin Health Department,” the August 16 statement said.

Tobey said on-line learning was not put into place this week because students had only been in school one day so the board and administration decided it would be best to restart school on August 24.

“I don’t think we have a COVID issue, I don’t think we have a huge breakout into our school district. I think our school is very, very safe and I’m excited to get school started next Monday with our middle school and high schoolers,” Tobey said.

Because Broken Bow—which lies within the Loup Basin Public Health Department—has been in Phase 4 of the state Directed Health Measures, the school district did not implement a mask mandate right away but knew things could change quickly. Staff and students are now required to wear masks while at school, especially if they cannot social distance, and it is recommended to wear masks to games or activities in order to help slow the contamination.

On Monday night Tobey said out of approximately 380 elementary students, all but about six were wearing masks the first day the requirement was implemented.

Off-campus learning in the current phase for Broken Bow schools requires a doctor’s note outlining health concerns and Tobey said there are currently about six students on that list. If wide-spread off-campus learning is required later on, Tobey said it will be more rigorous than it was last spring.

“I appreciate the support we’ve had from the community, our school board, our staff; they’ve been great to work with. You always have those tough conversations and sometimes people disagree with what you’re putting in place but the people that have disagreed have reached out and have been very cordial and we’ve had some good conversations and we’ll continue to have those as we move forward,” Tobey told KCNI/KBBN.