• 46°

PRC school board wants more info on drug testing

The Pearl River County school board on Monday night told Supt. Dennis E. Penton that members wanted more information concerning drug testing students in extracurricular activities, including sports, before proceeding any further with adopting a drug testing policy at the school.

Before the board made the request, Penton told the board that, if it chooses to implement a policy, the pool of students eligible for testing should be as large as possible to make it equitable.

“As to equity, it needs to be as large as possible, and the plan must be about remediation and not punishment,” he told the board.

Board member Michelle Boyd made the motion for more information and board president and member Twila Crabtree seconded the motion. It passed 4-0. Board member Sherwin Taylor was absent.

Board attorney Jim Keith also urged further study.

“You don’t need to re-invent the wheel. You need to talk to other school systems that have been successful in implementing a policy and fully explore the issue, before making a decision,” Keith said when asked about it by Crabtree.

Penton told the board that he has already received four emails from companies that do the testing, after they read “in the newspaper” that the board was considering a policy.

“It is a highly competitive industry,” he told the board.

Penton said costs could range from $20 to $35 per test and that annual costs could range from $12,000 to $16,000.

Penton also cautioned the board, “If we are going to test, we need the school, administration, the board and the parents to stand behind the policy and enforce it, and make sure the procedures are set up to help the kids, and it not be just a punitive situation.”

Keith echoed Penton’s remarks, saying the program should not be punitive, but should be tailored for “rescue and rehabilitation.”

Keith suggested to the board that the issue be taken to the “next level” and for members get more “specifics on costs and procedures for implementation.”

The school board in an April 18 discussion of school policy voted to set May 9 to further discuss the issue. The board was reviewing school policies at the April 18 meeting with Dr. Kay Clay, a consultant who is helping the school system revamp its school policies before posting them on the web.

The board is using the Mississippi School Board Associations model guidelines and policies in revamping its own set of policies.

Penton said at one time the school system had a drug testing policy, but he did not say why it was not longer in existence.

On another matter, architect Gary Bailey of Dale-Bailey of Tupelo told the board that projected costs on replacing trailers at the Pearl River Central and McNeill campuses with permanent brick-and-mortar structures would run about $5.2 million.

That brought a response from Boyd, who told Bailey that the school system only has a $5.8 unencumbered balance. Replied Bailey, “That’s why we have included alternatives in these estimates. We know it has been a tough year.”

Penton told the board there are also funds in 16th section land accounts.

Bailey’s presentation called for a 10-room addition at the high school, in front of the school, which would entail a redesign of the front of the Pearl River campus. Where the main parking lot is now would become a main classroom building with administrative offices in a permanent structure. Alternates called for fewer classrooms.

At McNeill, he proposed a permanent brick-and-mortar building on the north end of the campus that would eliminate the teachers’ parking lot and be similar in design to the fourth grade building, said Bailey.

The board in an earlier meeting gave Penton the go-ahead to look into costs regarding eliminating all the trailer classrooms on the Carriere and McNeill campuses.

On another project, replacing windows in permanent school buildings, Bailey outlined a proposals that ranged from $85,000 to $686,000. The largest costs would replace all the windows in all permanent buildings with energy efficient windows that would meet all local codes applying to the structure and also meet guidelines established by the state.

The board gave Coach Eric Collins permission to pursue further information concerning the possibility of constructing a track at the school and implementing a girls junior high softball program. Collins addressed the board about the two proposals. He said enough prospective participants are ready to join a softball team to support the program.

He said Pearl River Central has been doing well in track and field, and that if it was to continue to improve, a track is a necessity. He said any proposed track would surround the soccer field.