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Jackson R-2 OKs 2020-21 calendar

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved a district calendar for the 2020-2021 school year during their regular meeting on Dec. 10.

The calendar included a later start date than usual due to a new state law signed by Gov. Mike Parson this summer. The law, which was supported by the state’s tourism industry, requires public schools to start school no earlier than 14 calendar days prior to Labor Day.

“This has been kind of a funny thing,” Superintendent John Link said. “Every school across the state of Missouri had the exact same problem – how to get your first semester done before Christmas. No one wants to do finals after Christmas.”

To make sure finals are finished by winter break, school will start on the earliest day possible, Monday, Aug. 24. Link said starting on a Monday and having a full week of school before students have a break will be “horrific,” but the district didn’t have any other option. For comparison, students started the 2019-2020 school year on Thursday, Aug. 15.

The new law also pushed back the tentative last day of classes to May 25. This spring, school will tentatively end on May 19.

“From here on out, it will probably just be rolling days back unless they change the legislation again,” Link said.

Another change to last year is that students will not go to school the Monday before Election Day. This current year is the first time students had Election Day off and there was some confusion over coming to school that Monday and then being off on a Tuesday. Link said they made the decision to be off on Election Day last year because of safety concerns. The junior high is used as a polling location.

Winter break is scheduled for Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. Spring break is scheduled for April 1-5. The full calendar is available on the district’s website.

In other action

• The board approved a district employee discount program at HealthPoint Fitness. From Jan. 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020, district employees will receive a 10% discount upon enrollment at both the Jackson and Cape Girardeau locations.

From July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, district employees will receive a 20% discount and the district will pay for $10 of the monthly enrollment.

The employee’s share of the cost, which will be $48 for an individual membership during phase one and $33 in phase two, will be taken as an automatic payroll deduction. The program also allows district employees to get a free session with a personal trainer and a free session with a dietician.

The new program, which came out of conversations with the district’s teachers and wellness group, was created to help support employee’s efforts to improve their personal health and well-being. More than 50 district employees are already HealthPoint members.

The phases were designed to get through the first phase before the new district budget begins and to allow the district to measure initial interest in the program.

• First graders from Lesley Todd’s Orchard Drive Elementary class demonstrated Google Expeditions to the board. The Google application allows students to virtually explore different places through virtual reality technology.

Todd said this was the first year the class was able to use the program, because this was the first year they had individual iPads for each student.

The board was led by the students through a tour of the White House’s Christmas decorations. The virtual tour came with additional information that Todd was able to share with the students and board members.

Todd said the class has done “expeditions” to the Statue of Liberty for their American symbol unit and to the White House garden when they learned about plants. Over 900 guided tours are available through the app. Todd said most of the tours are for science and social studies lessons, and they range in age suitability from Kindergarten to 12th grade.

• Officers of the JHS Science National Honors Society presented to the board about their club, as well as the school’s science club. Both clubs were formed this year and are advised by Leanne Thele.

SNHS President Eli Jones, Vice President Winston Pais and Treasurer Mallorie Coffee demonstrated various scientific experiments and told the board about the two clubs.

The science club is open to all students at the high school, while the SNHS requires students to be at least a sophomore and take part in a science competition during the school year.

Only two projects from the high school were taken to the regional science fair last year. Through SNHS, the school is planning on submitting 23 projects to the science fair held in March at Southeast Missouri State University.

Jones will be doing his research on doing a total synthesis of a tropical disease called Lindbergin E, and Pais’ research is on the effect of phone usage on people’s neck structure. Coffee’s research is trying to jam bacterial communications that causes strep throat bacteria to release toxins.

The two clubs are currently doing fundraisers to make sure each student has the ability to do research projects, no matter what they cost.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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