An important discussion by the Hawkins County Board of Education will have to wait due to the coronavirus.
Hawkins County Director of Schools Matt Hixson announced that the special called HCBOE meeting scheduled for Thursday, April 2 has been postponed due to concerns of group meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Many are aware the Hawkins County Board of Education sought guidance from an outside agency to analyze our school system’s budget,” Hixson said. “This study was performed over the course of several months. After receiving the report, the BOE posted the report to our website for the public to review. The study looks at all expenditures the school system incurs annually and identifies methods school systems across the state enlist to reduce expenses.”
Before the 2019-20 school year began, the HCBOE had decided to move the fourth and fifth grade students from Keplar Elementary to Hawkins Elementary in Rogersville, due to declining enrollment and teachers leaving for other positions. Meetings of concerned parents and the BOE took place and the fourth and fifth graders stayed at Keplar.
The board voted on July 11 to bus the students to Hawkins Elementary, located seven miles away from the Keplar campus. The vote was 5-1 with Chairman Bob Larkins, Vice Chairman Debbie Shedden, Chris Christian, Kathy Cradic and Jackie Charles in favor. Tecky Hicks, who is board representative for Keplar, cast the lone opposition vote.
The situation came up when one of Keplar’s teachers resigned and another accepted a position within the Hawkins County system. By not filling the two positions, Hixson told parents in a meeting that the system would realize a savings of $120,000 a year.
The Hawkins County Budget Committee had previously voted to take two cents of property tax revenue from the general fund in order to perform needed repairs. The two-cent reduction took $175,000 out of the 2019-20 school budget.
Due to low enrollment at 97 students, Keplar does not qualify for state BEP funding and is funded by the county.
At that time, Hixson called for a cost analysis of spending in the system by an outside consultant. Results of the study were to be discussed at the April 2 meeting.
“During this past year as director of schools in Hawkins County, I can honestly say that our board has diligently sought to accept all viewpoints, opinions, and suggestions related to student achievement, safety, and success,” Hixson said. “Of these priorities, none outweigh the need to protect our students and to provide for their well-being. To this end, the decision to take any action regarding any of our school sites, will only be made after we can safely gather and allow for public input.
“Our focus has been and will remain to be squarely centered on student safety. Student safety and equal access to available resources will continue to drive all decisions our Board makes. This Board has been very diligent in seeking impartial information, weighing options, and considering the well-being of every student across the entire county, especially during this crisis.”
Hixson finished the statement by saying that all must focus on doing what they can do to remain healthy, keep students safe and help one another during this time.
“The cost analysis report, any recommendations, and actions can and should wait. When it is deemed safe to allow such a public forum needed to view and discuss this report and any subsequent actions, we will release the timeline well ahead of time,” Hixson said.