Sulphur Springs ISD Board of Trustees during the regular monthly meeting this week gave the Head Start program director the go-ahead to apply for grant continuation and refunding, as well as a Head Start transportation waiver application.
Director Angela Edwards asked trustees to approve a request for a transportation waiver for the Head Start program. She noted the SSISD Head Start program has five buses that transport the majority of Head Start bus riders. Preschool children are required to be in child restrain systems and to have bus monitors unless doing so results in a significant disruption to the program or would create a safety hazard.
The district has five small Head Start buses. Head Start serves 179 SSISD students, typically with approximately 85 of those children transported daily on school buses to and from the program. Approximately 10 children live in the furthermost parts of the district outside of the city. Due to the size of the county and district, SSISD would be unable to get those 10 students home on the five Head Start buses within the one-hour time limit for transport to and from school.
In the 2019-2020 school year, 83 students were transported on the Head Start buses, 34 of which were not in child safety seats. This year (2020-2021), due to social distancing parameters in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers were lower. This year, 52 children road the Head Start buses, with only 6 children transported on Head Start buses without child safety seats.
SSISD is asking for a waiver of the child restrain requirement to allow those students who live the farthest out, if/when they ride a bus home, to be transported on a regular school bus with other children.
The Head Start program tries not to do that, as they prefer the children not to be in the mix with other children if possible, but there are occasionally circumstances that arise that could make that necessary. Edwards explained that Head Start children typically are bused directly to and from the Head Start facility, and are not required to go to the bus hub to switch buses. However, the district is asking for the waiver just in case they do have students enroll who do need to be put on a bus whose route would take them to and from their residence.
Essentially, the waiver would be to meet any possible exceptions, not as a common practice.
Edwards noted the district is also seeking a waiver of the safety requirement for all Head Start children for program-related field trips, in case of an emergency evacuation or imminent danger situation or in case one of the Head Start buses is out of commission being repaired. For field trips and bus repair issues, the district would utilize standard school district buses that are not equipped with child safety seats, but would have bus monitors. In the event of an emergency or imminent danger, Head Start program would be required to load children on regular school buses, but would have additional staff on-board to assist with the children.
Transporting all Head Start students on five small buses would require the buses to make multiple trips is economically, and time-wise, not feasibly. Utilizing two regular school buses with adequate seating for staff and students is.
The district too is requesting permission to transport about 15 students, divided among 5 Head Start buses, without being restrained in a safety belt. Bus monitors would be on-board those buses.
All Head Start monitors are trained and accompany students on all field trips.
Grant Continuation Application
Edwards also asked the school board to consider approving an application for continuation and refunding of the Head Start program. She said the 10-pages presented to the board provides a budget justification for hte program, breaking expenses down into categories, and includes a summary per category.
The largest expense in the 2021-2022 budget, $1,108,552, is personnel. The 21 fully funded personnel and 20 partially funded staff members are the Head Start program’s greatest resource, Edwards noted. That number includes four full-time bus drivers and monitors, and two part-time bus drivers and monitors. The budget is figured with 50-65 percent of classroom teachers’ salaries; 100 percent of salaries for teacher assistants, instructional aides, bus drivers and bus monitors. The superintendent and business manager do not receive any funding from Head Start to apply toward their salaries. Staff salaries are competitive based on a comparison of SSISD salaries to those of other schools in the area and a TASB salary survey.
SSISD also contributes $360,525 in non-federal share matching funds to provide the additional funding for the 20 staff members, including 10 classroom teachers whose pay is based on Texas minimum salary schedule, one health specialist, one mental health and disabilities specialist, one education specialist, one physical education teachers, two campus secretaries, one library aide, one speech therapist, one assistant director and one director/principal.
The applications summary notes that the development and administrative costs for Head Start during the 2019-2020 school year were 10 percent of the continuation grant, which is less than the 15 percent limitation restriction for funding and administrative costs.
Another $192,846 in the projected 2021-2022 budget is designated for fringe benefits, this includes 1.4 percent contribution toward Medicare, $251 a month health insurance option, $0.2024 per $100 worker’s compensation, $0.0008 percent unemployment benefits, and 4.2-11 percent to Teacher Retirement System. The $1,421,963 proposed budget also includes:
- $48,900 for contractual expenses, that is on-site consultations in each content area to ensure compliance with federal regulations and services for students and families;
- $48,585 for office and classroom supplies for 10 classrooms, which each are given a set budget for instructional materials and supplies, family services and parent involvement, medical and dental supplies for education as well as safety, care and hygiene, classroom cooking and food experiences, disability supplies, vehicle maintenance supplies, miscellaneous operating costs, playground maintenance, catering or snacks for parent and staff meetings, and dues and subscriptions;
- $8,600 for out-of-town staff, heal services, disability services, mental health, transportation, administrative travel including hotel fees for overnight stays for training and conferences approved by the director and business manager; and
- $14,480 in other expenses, including child liability insurance, nutrition services, non-employee travel and parent volunteers, substitutes, extra duty pay.
The summary also includes $20,138 for training and technical assistance for staff, including certificate renewal training and content area training.
Projected expenses are never exactly the same as final expenses due to a number of changing factors and costs. However, Edwards said program officials work very closely with SSISD Business Manager Sherry McGraw to get as exact a projected figure as possible and to keep expenses within budget.
Edwards reported that Friday she received an email that the district will receive $17,000 in supplemental cost of living adjustment (COLA) funding.
Edwards said the program, based on a recent self assessment report would like to purchase more activities for the playground to provide more options for special education students on the playground.
The board unanimously approved the application for continuation and refunding of the Head Start program.