Pinellas School Board workshop roundup: Melrose Elementary, immunizations and energy savings
The Pinellas County School Board covered a lot of ground during its workshop on Tuesday. Board member Rene Flowers was absent (she was in Atlanta attending a discipline training conference with three area superintendents) and the board sang "Happy Birthday" to board member Janet Clark, whose birthday is on Saturday. Here are some highlights:
Even though the turnout was underwhelming, members of the community “overwhelmingly” support building a brand new Melrose Elementary.
The district received about 20 responses regarding the future of the school, one of the oldest and most in need in the county. Many also said they’d like the school to reflect contributions made by African Americans in St. Petersburg and that the new design should include more space for its journalism magnet. Some voiced that the defunct women’s center on-site, which the district is currently trying to investigate its owner, could be used as a community and after-school child care space.
Grego asked his staff to come back with instructional designs, which could be a voluntary pre-Kindergarten program, a magnet or any kind of attractor that would increase student interest in Melrose.
As far as the developments regarding the physical site itself, "I'm fine with either way," Grego said, referring to simply adding to Melrose's existing buildings or building a completely new school. "I am more in tune with what we're doing inside the classroom."
District representatives presented a few changes in district policy on entrance requirements and immunizations. In addition to a few wording changes, the new language now better reflects state statute language regarding immunizations instead of just referencing the statute.
“It’s really making it a more robust policy which is easier for parents to find," said Sara O'Toole the district's managing officer for school health services.
The board asked that language be added to the policy so that every student in the county may have a 30-day grace period to submit their required paperwork. The change will be reflected when the policy goes for its first reading at the upcoming board meeting on Feb. 23.
O'Toole said the policy changes were not a reaction to a recent count of 16 students falling ill with the chicken pox at Clearwater's Plumb Elementary. She said she had intended to change the language to reflect state stautes but that she wasn't able to submit the policy in time for the Jan. 19 workshop.
The Pinellas County School Board in March partnered with Cenergistic, an environmental consulting firm from Dallas, to cut back on electricity, gas and water consumption. Since then, energy specialists have visited schools throughout the county to match conditioning times to occupied times, plan for extended breaks accordingly, and analyze utility accounts and meters to cut costs.
From March to November the district saved $1.75 million in energy related expenses, or 7.4 percent of its utility budget. The district's goal is to grow its savings to 19 percent, or $6.1 million annually. After a trial period ended in October, the district splits its savings in half monthly to pay Cenergistic for its services.