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Out of the dark?

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Members of the Bolivar R-1 board of education discuss policies at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 16.

The dark cloud of an ongoing shortfall in state education funding is hopefully starting to lift, Bolivar R-1 superintendent Tony Berry told members of the board of education at their regular meeting Thursday, Oct. 15.

Over the summer, Gov. Mike Parson had announced restrictions on $123 million in core funding and $7.2 million in transportation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In Bolivar, R-1 CFO Kelly Holt previously told the BH-FP he’d estimated Bolivar would go without about $650,000 in Missouri Foundation Formula funding this year.

Federal CARES Act funding helped patch some of the bleeding, Holt said. 

As previously reported by the BH-FP, the Polk County Commission unanimously approved $487,700.65 for the district at its Tuesday, Aug. 11. R-1 applied for $559,703.71, according to minutes from the commission meeting. 

“So it’s not a 1:1 ratio,” Holt said. “We got hurt in the deal. So we’re going to get about 75%.”

But, at Thursday’s meeting, Berry said the future may hurt less. 

“Further funding is looking really good from the state,” he said. “So far, projections are up $740 million over where they were last year. Even the naysayers are saying things are looking really good for funding this year, so I am crossing my fingers and hoping we’re still going to be fully funded.”

Meanwhile, the outlook for federal funding isn’t as certain, he said. 

“I’ve heard we likely won’t know anything until after the presidential election,” he said. 

Feeling hopeful

The funding news is just one positive development the district is hoping to hear, Berry said.

The district has applied for COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, which can provide results within 15 minutes, he said. 

“We’ll be able to ID those students at a faster rate,” he said. 

Berry said he’s hoping to receive about 3,000 tests — roughly one for every student and staff member in the district — but the total will depend on how many the state receives from the federal government. 

The nasal test is supposed to be minimally invasive but can still be unpleasant, he said with a joke. 

“When they say minimally invasive, I had it done to me and I did not feel like it was minimally invasive,” he said. “I felt fully invaded.”

On the plus side, Berry said construction of the high school track is progressing. A surface has been poured and will need to cure for 28 days before rubber can be applied. 

“That‘s going to be a weather issue because it has to be 50 degrees at night and rising before they can spray the rubber onto the surface,” he said. “I’m not sure how that’s going to work out, but I have seen some hot Novembers before.”

The board also met in closed session to discuss legal actions; hiring, firing, disciplining or promoting employees; individually identifiable personnel records and performance rating or records pertaining to employees. According to the unapproved minutes, no action required to be reported by open records law was taken.

Board members Kyle Lancaster, Jeralen Shive, Jared Taylor, Keri Clayton, Paula Hubbert, JR Collins and Brandon Van Deren were present for both sessions. 

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 19. 

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