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story.lead_photo.caption California High School Photo by David Wilson / California Democrat.

The Moniteau County R-1 Board of Education took care of some business as usual, amid the disruptions to regular routines caused by the coronavirus pandemic, at its regular meeting last Wednesday.

The board plans to meet an additional time between now and its next regular monthly meeting to readdress the district's recent closure, which began last week and is set to extend until April 6. The board will reconvene to decide whether it needs to remain closed for a longer duration at 6 p.m. April 2 at its usual meeting venue in California High School's library media room.

With California schools closed, the district is still working to distribute meals to children — superintendent Dwight Sanders said the district decided it would feed any child in the community from birth to 18, rather than just enrolled California students.

"We're looking forward to providing this service over this untimely break — it is what it is," Sanders said. "This is an unprecedented situation. I've been in education 25 years and have never seen anything like it.

Sanders said the district plans to continue pay for non-certified staff for the duration of the district's closure, since those expenses were already anticipated even in the event of an extended closure.

With municipal elections across the state postponed from April 7 to June 2, the board won't see a reorganization as it had expected for April's meeting. Current board members who would be outgoing have agreed to stay on for the time being.

At last week's meeting, the group approved a number of items, including salary/benefits and health insurance offerings for employees and a five-year transportation contract. The certified teacher salary schedule will see a $750 increase, while administrators will see a 3 percent raise and non-certified staff will see a 5 percent raise. The cost for salary improvements totals $310,000. Meanwhile, the district's health insurance plans will remain the same, with the district's contribution increasing from $475 to $500.

"We try to stay in the top third of our conference schools, and I think this will keep us there, at least in most categories," Sanders said. "Anytime we make a change to our salary schedule, we don't know what the other conference schools are doing, but I know that we will maintain a pretty competitive salary schedule."

The transportation contract approved by the board was with Durham School Services, the district's existing contractor and the submitter of the lowest bid for the 2020-25 contract. Sanders said this agreement would be more beneficial to the district, as Durham agreed to provide a significantly newer bus fleet, with an average age of 5 years old and no buses older than 8.

The final contract approved at March's meeting was a guaranteed performance contract for energy services with McKinstry Co., LLC. The guaranteed performance contract is one element the district has been informing the public about in line with its bond proposition set to appear on the June ballot — Sanders said it's possible to approve the contract now and begin scheduling work to take place this summer, whether the bond issue passes or not.

"We're early enough in the year where we can get them scheduled to be able to get this work done this summer, especially in light of the fact that if the bond issue passes in June, it's probably going to delay a lot of our other projects some," Sanders said.

The board also discussed the new athletic program proposals it's been considering for a few months. After seeking a legal opinion, the district determined it doesn't appear it would be out of Title IX compliance if it doesn't offer one or both of girls soccer and wrestling. However, the board decided the district has the means to sufficiently support a wrestling program. Thus, boys and girls wrestling at the middle and high school level was approved to begin next fall. Athletic director Rick Edwards said the district's next steps will be working on conference scheduling, for which some groundwork has already been laid, and working to find a coach.

While the board found there to be some interest in girls soccer based on the results of the student survey sent out following January's board meeting, it deemed interest probably wasn't widespread enough to indicate a girls soccer program could successfully field a competitive team. As a result, the board decided not to take any action on a girls soccer program at this time.

"I would like to acknowledge we had a very passionate group about that," board president Philip Burger said. "I think that we'd always entertain hearing from them in the future."

The Moniteau County R-1 Board of Education's next regular monthly meeting will take place at 6 p.m. April 15 in the CHS library media room.

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