Picayune school district picks a start date for year

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Picayune Municipal Separate School District Board approved a start date for the next school year and announced that pre-sequestration funding levels have been restored to the Early Head Start program.

During Tuesday evening’s meeting the board approved a student start date of Aug. 7 for the 2014-2015 school year. Teachers will start on Aug. 1.

Board member Frank Ford said he has received calls asking if the district could begin the year on Aug. 11.

During the discussion board members considered reducing the time off during Mardi Gras as a way to fix the problem.

“To me a week off for Mardi Gras is a little excessive,” board member Frank Feeley said.

Superintendent Dean Shaw said the district’s block schedule mandates each semester contain 90 days of instruction, so reducing the Mardi Gras holiday would have no affect on the first semester of the year. In addition, such a late start date would mean school would have to be held until Dec. 22, and it would push exams back until after Christmas break, Shaw said.

Picayune’s school district is the only one in the county that takes a week off for the holiday, the superintendent said.

After the discussion, the board approved a unanimous motion to set the student start date for Aug. 7.

Pearl River Central will also start their next school year on Aug. 7, while Poplarville will start on Aug. 6, Shaw said.

Funding for the district’s Early Head Start program was restored to pre-sequestration levels, $1.6 million, recently, Assistant Superintendent Brent Harrell said. Now that the funding has been restored, it will mean the three classes closed as a result of the cut can resume. Each class teaches eight students. In addition, six positions will be restored.

During the sequestration the funding level was cut by five percent.

The district will soon apply for a Community Eligibility Provision, which if approved will mean free lunches for all students in the district. Harrell said in 2010 it began as a pilot program in about 10 states. Now the program is available nationwide, but an application process is required. Harrell said the district is eligible to apply for the program due to the number of qualified free student meals.

“We have a very high poverty level,” Harrell said.

If approved, it could mean the district will serve more meals, since there are some jr. high and high school students who do not eat lunch, Harrell said. Approval is good for four years before a district has to reapply. The board approved a motion to apply for the program.

Beginning July 1, classified personnel in the district will have the option to be paid twice a month, instead of once. Harrell said this change will not apply to certified personnel, which includes teachers, administration or other personnel who require Mississippi certification. Those personnel will still be paid once a month.

The board also approved a motion to enter into a memorandum of understanding with William Carey College to accept student teachers and provide hands-on experience for students working on a degree.