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A Few Changes To Note As SSISD Begins The 2021-2022 School Year Today

Sulphur Springs ISD Administrators went over a few changes this year that students, parents and staff will want to make note of, particularly those regarding school meals, corporal punishment, absences, one dress code change, School Health Advisory Council operations, final exams, leave for SSISD police officer and return to school plan basics.

School Meals

SSISD Child Nutrition Deparmtent, like those in most school districts this fall, has opted to participate in the Seamless Summer Option, made available through the United States Department of Agriculture. What that means for students is that a regular breakfast and lunch meal will be offered for all children enrolled in SSISD schools regardlss of family income,

Veronica Arnold, SSISD Child Nutrition Director

No application or eligibility determination is required for SSISD students to receive free meals under the Seemless Summer Option this school year, income eligibility requirements will likely resume in the 2022-2023 school year. Because of this likely outcome, Sulphur Springs ISD will process household applications during the school year 2021-2022 for Middle School and High School students only, as in years past. The online application can be completed using the Meal App Now. Pre-K through 5th grade will continue to be free campuses under the CEP program in the school year 2022-2023, Child Nurtrition Director Veronica Arnold reports.

Per the updated policy, however, a la carte (extras) menu items and snacks may be purchased, but cannot be charged this year. Students must have money in hand or in their Lunch Money Now student meal accounts to purchase extra items. Money may be added daily, weekly, or monthly in the cafeteria during the serving times with cash or check. Parents are reminded to NOT combine meal payments with other school purchases. If meal payment is made by check, the entire amount will be deposited into the student’s meal account.

Faculty and staff will be required to pre-pay for their meals, as they will not be allowed to charge this year either.

Also, the miniumum price for faculty and adult visitor lunches will be increasing a little bit. The price for lunches have increased to $4.25 while breakfast will continue to be $2.75 for faculty, staff and adult visitors, both of which SSISD Board of Trustees President Robert Cody pointed out “is still a bargain.”

Students handbooks

Assistant Superintendent Josh Williams reported changes to both elementary, middle and high school handbooks. Some policies the district is required by law to incorporate or change and others were items district administrators wanted to do differently this year.

The dress code has one change this year, and that is in regard to piercings. The policy removes any reference to male or female/boy or girls and simply states “students may wear earrings only. No other visible body piercings (jewelry or decorations) or gauges are allowed. Clear spacers are allowed. However, unacceptable are “mouth grills or other face decorations; oversized jewelry; exposed tattoos that are lewd, vulgar, morbid, slanderous, incitant, offensive, or that depict violence or illegal activity.”

This year, the School Health Advisory Council which includes staff, student, parent and community members will per law be required to have greater transparency. Notification of upcoming SHAC meetings must be posted at each campus’ administrative office at least 72 hours before the meeting. Notifications of upcoming meetings, meeting minutes and a recording of each meeting must also now be posted on the district website, by clicking the For Parents menu, then selecting Health Information and School Health Advisory Committee.

Parents/guardians are legally required to provide in writing the parent’s contact information, including
address, phone number, and email address. This information is required upon the students’ enrollment in the districct as well as 2 weeks after the start of each following school year while the student is enrolled in the district. If the parent contact information changes during the school year, the parent must provide a written update of information to the child’s campus no more than 2 weeks after the change.

The school periodically sends information by automated or pre-recorded message, text message, real-time phone or email communications, Parents who DO NOT wish to receive these notices should contact their child’s principal to let the school administrator know.

SSISD Assistant Superintendent Josh Williams

This year, the students handbook per legal requirements also incluces as an exception to the compulsory attendance polices for all grade levels “absences resulting from a serious or life-threatening illness or related treatment that makes a student’s attendance infeasible, with certification by a physician.”

Another exemption to the compulsory attendance policy that secondary students and their parents will want to take note of is the allowance of students 15 and older to be absent for one day to obtain their learner license and one day to obtain a driver’s license. While getting a learner driver’s license is allowed, the student must provide documentation of the visit to the driver’s license office for each absence in order for the absence to be excused; the student must also make up any work missed on that day.

Juniors and seniors can miss up to 2 days each school year to visit a college or university, provided the principal has approved the absence and follows campus procedures to verify the visit. The student must theen make up the work.

Students ages 6-18 “will be required to attend any assigned accelerated instruction program before or after school or during the summer if the student does not meet the passing standards on an applicable subject area state assessment.”

The parent of a student in grades 3, 5, or 8 who fails to perform satisfactorily on the math or reading assessment may request that the district consider assigning the student to a particular classroom teacher in the applicable subject area, if more than one classroom teacher is available; and file a grievance or complaint regarding the content or implementation of the ALC’s educational plan.

If a student in grades 3–8 is enrolled in a class or course intended for students above his or her current grade level in which the student will be administered a state-mandated assessment, the student will be required to take an applicable state-mandated assessment only for the course in which he or she is enrolled, unless otherwise required to do so by federal law.

For a student receiving special education services, the student’s IEP developed by the student’s ARD committee would determine a plan for that student.

As required by law, during the 2021–22 school year, a parent may request in writing that a student repeat a course taken for high school credit that a student took and received credit for during the 2020-21 school year. Before granting the request, the district may convene a retention committee to meet and discuss the request and will invite the parent to participate.

Also, parents can request in writing that a student repeat prekindergarten, kindergarten, or grade 1, 2, or 3. For the 2021–22 school year only, a parent may request in writing that a student repeat grade 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 that the student was enrolled in during the 2020-21 school year. Before granting a request, the district may convene a retention committee to meet and discuss the request and will invite the parent to participate.

If a student does not perform satisfactorily on an End Of Course exam, the district will provide accelerated instruction. Failure of a student to attend accelerated instruction may result in violations of required school attendance.

The high school administrators too this year, Williams said when introducting proposed handbook changes to district trustees at the August school board meeting. plan to require all students to take exams during the fall semester, but allowing them to be exempt from spring exams if the student has had no more than the 8 allowable excused absences for the eyar and have a grade of 80 or better for that class exam.

Students, unless a parent notifies the district otherwise, can be admiminstered certain over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever, pain or discomfort; antibiotic ointment; antifungal cream; aticeptic, soap, peroxide or Benadryl/diphenhydramine for mild to moderate allergic reactions; benzocaine, lidocaine or medicaine; Blistex, Carmex or lip moisturizer; calcium carbonate or Tums; Calamine or Caladryl; Camphophenique or camphor; hydrocortisone cream or rubbing alcohol; Ora-Gel; and saline salution, aritficial tears or eye lubricant, as appropriate.

Student Code Of Conduct

SSISD Board of Trustees earlier this month approved a policy update for FO(local) policy regarding changes to the standard for corporal punishment, spanking or paddling of a student. Essentially, the law now requires a parent who agrees their student can receive corporal punishment to send a signed letter to the school principal letting the school know it is not to be allowed as an appropriate punishment if a student is subject to discipline, Williams explained.

To make it easier, parents of SSISD students are asked to complete and return a signed form if they agree and have not already signed one. Details, such as any questions regarding the number of licks, type of instrument used, or what corporal punishment would garner corporal punishment, should be worked out ahead of time to make sure the parents and administrators are on the same page. Corporal punishment will not be considered unless the annual form is reutrned to the school.

Parents can at any time change their mind and revoke or allow permission for use of corporal punishment by submitting a signed statement in writing to the principal.

Students who are in the temporary or permanent custody of the state will not be administered corporal punishment, even if the student’s caregivers or caseworker hasn’t submitted the required paperwork prohibiting use.

When corporal punishment is used, the student must be told why they are receiving it as punishment, it is administered by the principal and in the presence of another district professional employee in a designated place out of view of other students. The student’s disciplinary record will then include the person who administered it, witness, date and time of corporal punishment and type administered.

Parents will be asked to sign a form like this one if they give permission for their student to be paddled or spanked (corporal punishment) according to the terms stipulated in the Student Code of Conduct

Employee Handbook

Most of the changes to the employee handbook this year involved shuffling from one location to another, including moving school policy to employee handbook, with one prime exception, inclusion of leave for peace officers.

Per DEC (Local) policy, district administrators indicated in the information presented to trustees recently, SSISD policy now includes among potential acceptable causes for leave of peace officers without deduction in compensation “mental health” leave for officers who experience a traumatic event in the scope of employment. The policy defines what would be considered a traumatic event and stipulates that a peace officer who does experience a traumatic event as defined would be entitled to a maximum of five days of paid leave per event, provided a written request for mental health leave is field with the human resources department within 10 working days of the event. The employee then would be notified in writing if the request is approved or denied based on policy.

Quarantine leave too will be grated to SSISD Police Officers if they are ordered to isolate or quarantine because of known exposure to a communicable disease (like COVID-19) while on duty. To qualify for this, the order must come from either the Local Health Authority, the SSPSD Chief of Police or Superintendent. Certificationfrom the LHA to validate the need for leave must also be attained. During the quarantine leave, the officer would receive all employment benefits and compensation, including leave accrual and other benefits. If ordered by the superintendent of police chief, a district form must be submitted to human resources.

Safe Return, Continuity of Services Plan

Williams also noted the district’s safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services plan is fairly simple, only 4 pages long as opposed the plan adopted last summer for the 2020-2021 school that spanned a dozen pages.

SSISD, per the Governor’s mandate, will not be requiring those on campus to wear masks nor will COVID vaccinations be required. However, those who wish to wear masks are welcome to do so, Williams reported. COVID accinations are available for ages 12 and older, and those students with parental consent who wish to get the vaccine are certainly allowed to do so.

SSISD will follow Texas Education Agency guidance regarding COVID-19 protocols and response.

From page 4 of the SSISD Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan

In general, if a student, employee or vistor to campus is COVID sick, that student is to remain at home. Those who test positive for coronavirus must stay at home until a doctor releases them to return to school. If the infected person does not have a doctor overseeing care, the indiviudal should work with a SSISD nurse to determine using CDC guidelines when the individual is eligible to return to school

While the district will notify Texas Department of State Health Services via a submitted form if someone on campus tests positive for the virus, the district will not in accordance with federal, state and local laws and regulations, There will be no contact tracing conducted by the school, so those who think they have had extended exposure to a COVID positive individual should take personal responsibility

SSISD administrators said as of Aug. 9 they were aware of at least four district employees known to have COVID-19 they should take “personal responsibility” as appropriate, keeing in mind they are allowed up to 8 absences each year.

Hand sanitizer will be provided in classrooms, offices and other areas. Handwashing is encouraged and available in restrooms, breakrooms and kitchens. Handwashing stations with hot water will be cleaned and equipped with soap approved by the CDC.

The district is prepared, if necessary to return to remote instruction this school year. Either way, academic, social, emotionaland mental health services and other needs will continue to be met by the district. The food service department will even continue providing meals for those in need, if the district has to return to vitual learning.

The district wills till provide hand sanitizer, soap or handwashing, supplement traditional cleaning by disinfecting surfaces frequently touched four times a day. Restrooms too are to be cleanes four times daily and a special shield antimicrobial surface protector will be administered on all distirct buses every 30 days.

All other activities such as athletics, band, extracurricular and cocurricular activities, assemblies, pep rallies, field trips and school carnivals will resumenormally.

The full plan can be viewed at by clicking here.

SSISD outlines in the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Planthe procedure if someone on campus tests COVID positive

Author: Faith Huffman

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