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Jackson R-2 School District wins ‘most equitable’ award

The Jackson R-2 School District was named the most equitable school district in Missouri by the personal finance website WalletHub. Superintendent Dr. John Link announced the award at the Aug. 11 School Board meeting, saying, “It’s good to be number one in something.”

WalletHub scored 516 Missouri school districts to analyze where school funding is distributed most equitably, using the average household income in the district and the expenditures the district pays per student.

Jackson R-2 Schools ranked first in the comparison, with an average household income of $60,013 and the District spending $8,551 in expenditures for each elementary and secondary school student.

Link said the award showed that Jackson provides the best education for every student, as opposed to just certain children. He said it shows that the District can do a lot with less and that they can count on community support. “If we have a need, our community is going to come through,” Link said.

According to the report, equitable funding to school districts help prevent poor students from having lower graduation rates, lower rates of pursuing higher education and smaller future incomes than their wealthy peers.

Northeast Missouri’s West Nodaway County School District was ranked second and Perry County School District was ranked third.

In other action:

• The School Board approved this year’s professional development plan, which focuses on virtual learning and the social/emotional health of the students. Associate Superintendents Dr. Matt Lacy and Dr. Jessica Maxwell said those two topics will be especially important this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve charged our staff with being able to pivot at a moments notice if we have to close school and go virtually long-term or short-term,” Lacy said. He added “these are trying times on everybody, so we want to care more than just what our kids know. We want to focus on the individual student and meet their needs.”

Maxwell said all teachers will receive professional development on distance learning, although Ignite Online teachers will receive additional training. She added that a top goal for elementary distance learning is to be consistent throughout the district in what distance learning looks like.

When the District surveyed parents about the District’s distance learning this spring, some parents indicated that they were receiving too much work from teachers while other parents said they weren’t getting enough.

In addition, elementary teachers will receive professional development on several new curriculum resources for reading, writing and math. Middle school teachers will focus on a multi-tiered system of support intervention program to make sure students don’t get behind, and junior high teachers will focus on how to teach effectively in the new 90-minute class schedule. High school teachers will focus on teacher efficacy, which emphasizes the teacher’s confidence level in regard to their teaching abilities.

Link added that the District will also use the nine professional development days this year to make sure the district takes care of the teachers’ emotional well-being. “We are asking so much out of them that we have to make sure they are not burned to a crisp in November,” he said. “There may be some days where they just need a break.”

• The School Board set a tax rate hearing date for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 25, in the JHS Ignite Center. Director of Finance Terry Gibson said there will be no tax increase and the rate will remain at $3.80 per $100 assessed valuation

• Link said they are currently reviewing the reopening plan, but do not plan to relax the safety standards set in place. He said that while some CDC guidelines have relaxed, the local public health center advised that the District keep the safety measures they have already planned.

Link said he wants to err on the side of caution and will continue the District’s mask mandates, even if the county mask order is lifted. “That’s a non-negotiable with me,” Link said. “I’m just not going to take a chance.”

He said that he still hopes the District will be able to start classes in person on Aug. 24. “If we can start and even get two to three weeks in before we have to shut down for a couple days, at least we’ve set the tone for the year,” Link said. “I don’t want to wait until September to try to do that.”

He added that they still don’t know if the District is going to limit attendance at sporting events, but masks will probably be required.

• As of the School Board meeting, 566 students had enrolled in Ignite Online, the District’s new virtual-learning program. Maxwell added that the students are fairly spread out evenly by grade level, with around 50 students per grade.

Link added that Ignite Online students will be able to pick up meals from the school at each building’s cafeteria.

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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