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At the Oct. 8 meeting of the McDonald County R-1 School District Board of Education, the board voted four to three to hire Schneider Electric for a $2.8 million project that will bring new HVAC, rooftops and awnings.

Representatives of Schneider Electric outlined a list of improvements their company would supply for the price of $2.8 million. They included new awnings at the high school covering seven locations where students exit buildings or transfer from building to building; new rooftops at the high school, Southwest City Elementary and Noel Elementary; 16 HVAC units at the high school, eight HVAC units at Southwest City and also some HVAC units at Noel Elementary; a mixture of items at Anderson Elementary, including a boiler; replacing piping for the heating/cooling system at Noel Elementary.

Some board members were concerned with the price because it was higher than the company's bid of $2.3 million. The representatives explained that the piping at Noel Elementary was not part of their original bid but became part of the proposed project after the company examined everything in the district that needed work. They also noted they worked as hard as they could with local subcontractors to get the number down.

The project was approved.

Director of operations Will Gordon reported that construction on the weight room at the high school is on track. He said students should be able to use it soon.

Superintendent Mark Stanton reported that Larry Hart would be providing a bond refinance to save taxpayers money on general obligation bonds. Hart will be at next month's board meeting, he said.

Technology director Robin Leonard requested permission to seek bids for tech cabling at the high school. He said the federal government will pay for 80 percent of the project. He also reported he is working on an outdoor WiFi project to bring WiFi to all school parking lots. He said the state will reimburse the district for 50 percent.

Assistant Superintendent Joy Hardridge gave an update on how many students and staff members have tested positive for covid-19 and how many have been excluded from school. Current numbers can be found on the district's website.

Paige Behm, the administrator for the McDonald County Health Department, attended the meeting to answer questions. Board member Andy McClain asked if there was any way to get excluded students back to school more quickly. Behm said there was not, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, and she cautioned against doing that. The board discussed a situation in which a pre-k class had two positive students in 14 days, and the entire class had to be quarantined. Behm said this was considered an outbreak.

McClain noted the school district is required by law to allow the health department to quarantine students.

Stanton said the school district is going to hire a contact tracer and put the tracer through the Johns Hopkins training to take some of the workload off the health department. He also noted the district has to follow the public safety guidelines or the school board could be held personally liable.

In other business, Stanton announced that the Noel Primary School addition is paid in full and that fall break will be Oct. 29 (half day) and 30.

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