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School board makes purchases for reopening schools

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Preparing for a return to school facilities in August, the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Monday approved a pair of expenses from CARES Act money and additional state funds aimed at bridging connectivity gaps and enhancing its sanitation procedures in schools.

The additional sanitation services will be provided by Kelly Educational Staffing, with custodians working in schools after students have left the building to go above and beyond normal cleaning protocols.

The night custodians will be Kelly employees, though all the regular custodians are and will remain RSS employees. The district recently contracted with Kelly to take over its substitute teacher system. The estimated cost of the additional custodial services is $817,000 for the full school year. That amount will be covered by funds the district received from the CARES Act.

The board also approved the purchase of 210 seventh-generation Apple iPads, which can serve as mobile hotspots for students in addition to their tablet functionality.

Chief Technology Officer David Blattner said the district received $139,000 in funding from the state to provide internet access points, but the funding specifically cannot be used for service costs of mobile hotspots.

Blattner said the issue with that rule is, usually, service is purchased and comes with a device instead of the other way around. Purchasing the iPads, which have hotspot functionality, allows the district to get more multifunctional devices it can then purchase service for.

Blattner said the devices can be used on any carrier and can still be useful even if the service available on them is not activated. The total purchase price was $137,729 for the iPads, cases and services like AppleCare for warranty issues. The funds have to be used by Dec. 30.

The district previously purchased hotspots with service last semester to attempt to cover more students in middle and elementary schools who would not normally be issued them.

The board also approved the purchase of heat sealing machines, which can be used to package meals in-house to serve to students. The total cost of the machines, equipment and freight was $216,011.

The board also received an update on the local COVID-19 situation from Rowan County Emergency Management division Chief T.J. Brown. Brown reviewed the county’s open data hub that tracks local figures on the pandemic by a number of metrics including age, race, ethnicity and congregate living settings.

Brown noted the pandemic has disproportionately affected the local Hispanic community and addressed a board question about whether a single positive case can count toward the total if someone tests positive twice before recovering from COVID-19.

Brown said cases in the county are tallied a single time, and positive retests do not, but if someone were to test positive, recover, then test positive months later that would count as a new case.

Addressing parent concerns over school uniforms going into next school year, Moody noted in the past, principals would gauge if a school wanted to discontinue uniforms.

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