ATHENS — Limestone County Schools will spend more than $500,000 in federal coronavirus relief money to buy electronic devices for K-12 students to use during the school year and to allow the district to have enough devices for students if there’s a need for remote learning.
Limestone County Superintendent Randy Shearouse told the school board Tuesday night that the district received $1,598,371 in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which must be spent by September 2022. The money will be used to help schools get prepared to start the new school year and for COVID-19 safety procedures, according to Shearouse.
Shearouse, who started the superintendent job June 1, also presented a draft proposal for the CARES Act money, with the largest share, $600,000, for technology-related expenses, including devices and internet access. All seven board members were present at the livestreamed meeting at the Limestone County Courthouse Annex.
The school board approved the payment of $376,479 for 1,475 Dell Chromebooks and 1,475 Google Chrome management licenses, from CDW-G LLC.
The Chromebooks will be used at schools in grades 2-12 during the year and for teachers who do not have a district device, and will give the school system enough laptops for students in those grades for remote learning, if needed.
The board also approved the purchase of 460 iPads and cases, at a cost of $151,317, which will be used at elementary schools during the year and provide enough iPads for kindergarten and first grade students for remote learning, if needed.
Other items in the draft proposal are:
• $200,000: Individual school needs to cover costs associated with startup.
• $200,000: Two social-emotional counselors/social workers to help students with difficulties adjusting to returning to school. (Alabama will pay $40,000 toward one position, according to the draft proposal).
• $55,000: Replace and retrofit water fountains for refilling water bottles.
• $50,000: Safety equipment like face shields, masks, hand sanitizer and goggles.
• $93,371: Temperature-checking devices.
• $400,000: Additional time in personnel costs for work like cleaning classrooms and school buses.
Shearhouse said in a letter Monday to school system families that as of now, plans are being made to start school on Aug. 7, and the district will provide “various instructional delivery methods.”
As for Athens City Schools, Interim Superintendent Beth Patton said in a letter last week schools are scheduled to start Aug. 17 with two options: traditional face-to-face instruction, and remote instruction with students working online from home and teachers regularly checking in and providing virtual instruction.
The letter said this is not a commitment for the entire school year and checkpoints will be established so families can choose to return to traditional learning. For students who choose traditional learning, a blended option will also be in place.
In a personnel action, the Limestone County school board approved the transfer of Bill Tribble to the position of executive director of human resources and operations. The board also approved Tribble’s resignation as principal of Elkmont High School.
Tribble was Elkmont High’s principal for four years. Before that, he was at East Limestone High, where he was a history teacher and baseball coach and later athletic director and assistant principal.
“It was a difficult decision because I had a great faculty at Elkmont,” Tribble said, and "it was hard to leave" the students and families there. But Tribble, a Limestone County native and East Limestone High graduate, said he believes he can have an impact on building relationships among the district’s principals, teachers, staff and central office directors.
Tribble replaces Samuel Mark Isley, who resigned earlier this year under a settlement agreement with the school board.