Conley explains flu impact on Cherokee schools

News, School Corner

MURPHY, N.C. – In her Superintendent’s Report at the Cherokee County Board of Education (BOE) meeting Thursday, Feb. 8, Dr. Jeana Conley discussed the impact of this year’s influenza outbreak on the county schools.

“Traditionally, to close a school, what we’ve seen historically is that we need 20 to 22 percent (absentee rate) and sometimes school systems wait until 30 percent (to close a school),” Conley explained. “We’re working with our health department. We would like, if there is a school closure, for it to be a collaborative effort that encompasses the entire community because it doesn’t do a lot of good according to the research to close schools if we can’t stop ball games, stop functions on the weekend (and) have limited activities with the community. So, it needs to be a comprehensive community approach when we do close schools.”

According to Conley, The Oaks Academy school had the highest absentee rate of all schools across Cherokee County as of the BOE meeting at 14.9 percent. This was followed by Murphy Middle School at 12.4 percent, Andrews Elementary at 11.7 percent, Hiwassee Dam High at 11.5 and Martins Creek Elementary at 10.7 percent to round out the top five schools with the highest absentee rate.

“One of the issues with the flu this year is that we’re not seeing it massively in our (absentee) numbers, but when we do see it, it is a terrible case of the flu,” Conley stated.

When BOE Chairman Paul Brown asked Conley if the number of absences were better than the previous week, Conley reported that there had been isolated spikes in numbers at certain schools but the county-wide numbers were falling.

After this, BOE member Tim Coffey asked Conley about absences among faculty and school staff. “We have not really had an issue with our faculty,” Conley said.

Board member Winfield Clonts gave a financial planning subcommittee report that included the proposal to request bids beginning Monday, Feb. 12, for an Andrews High School roofing project to replace the roof on the school’s cafeteria, gymnasium and dressing rooms buildings. Cherokee County Schools will receive bids on the project through March 1. Clonts told the board members the life of the roof had essentially expired two years ago.

The board discussed the lifespan advantages of proceeding with a pitched metal roof as opposed to a rubber roof. Clonts told the board a rubber roof typically has a 20-year lifespan while a metal roof usually has a 40-year lifespan. However, it was noted that installation of a metal roof would require some re-engineering of the building. Also, the board discussed the possibility of re-roofing the buildings without incorporating the existing skylights. After further discussion, the proposal for requesting bids was approved with the provision that received bids would include costs for re-roofing the building with and without the skylights.

The BOE approved usage of the Half-Cent Sales Tax Fund in the amount of $41,672 to cover maintenance and repair costs at Hiwassee Dam, Martins Creek and Murphy Elementary schools, Andrews Middle School, Murphy High School and The Oaks Academy.

An application for a debt service payment in the amount of $1,360.23 for building B at Andrews High School using the Public School Building Capital Fund of the North Carolina Education Lottery was also approved by the BOE.


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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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