At its May 19 board meeting, the Dawson County Board of Education took the first steps in approving three policy updates and discussed how the public can be involved in future meetings about the school system’s budget.
The first update brought before the board was to a policy concerning health and physical education. According to school officials, the main policy change will modify how sex education as taught in school.
New wording to the policy will read “Sex Education shall also include annual age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention education in kindergarten through grade 9.”
The second policy update concerns annual employee leave and absences. Currently, the school system policy requires accumulated leave over five days to be forfeited each year on June 30, and states that terminated employees can only be compensated for five unused annual leave days.
Officials say that the new policy will allow employees to keep less than 20 unused leave days, and terminated employees can be compensated for up to 10 unused leave days.
The third policy update presented at the board meeting concerns the system’s wellness program, affecting marketing and advertising on school campuses.
The new policy states, “All marketing and advertising for foods and beverages must meet Smart Snack in school nutrition standards.”
According to school nutritionist Linda Byrd, this means that all foods and beverages offered at schools must include limits on fat, sugar, sodium and calorie content.
The board unanimously approved all three policy updates.
Dawson County School Superintendant Damon Gibbs said that policy updates must be brought before and approved by the board twice, so any changes will stay on the table until the next board meeting.
Public involvement in school system budgeting
The meeting closed with a report from Gibbs, who expressed a desire to involve the public in future budget-related meetings, especially with the uncertainty for the upcoming school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the budget,” Gibbs said. “So we want to encourage the community to come out and be a part of our sessions about [budgeting]. We want to answer questions and want people to understand how we do our budget.”
Not everyone may understand how the budgeting process works or where the school system’s money comes from, Gibbs said, and that leads to confusion on how things like school bonds, taxes and ESPLOST funds work.
The hope is that by inviting the public to participate in future board meetings, citizens will be able to ask questions on anything they may be confused about.
“Most people don’t understand our different funding services,” Gibbs said. “So the more we educate the community, it’s a service to everyone.”