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The Jefferson County School Board met on Monday, July 8, for the district's regularly scheduled meeting.
With a short agenda, the board finished its business quickly and promptly, but not before Superintendent Marianne Arbulu could bring to light three upcoming matters that will be of interest to board members and Jefferson County residents.
The first being the possible gain of an additional emergency shelter in Jefferson County.
Currently, the county's only emergency shelter for natural disasters is the Jefferson Somerset campus, located off South Jefferson Highway.
According to Superintendent Arbulu, however, she has been in discussion with Jefferson County Emergency Management Director Paula Carroll about turning the weight room and cafeteria within the old Jefferson High School campus (located on Water Street) into a second shelter.
“[Emergency Management staff] are looking for a shelter, to be a primary shelter that is also pet-friendly,” said Arbulu, adding that she and Carroll had walked the Water Street building before the July 8 meeting with board members.
“They thought that would be a great facility,” continued Arbulu.
One of the benefits of turning the currently vacated building into a shelter is the
“I think that will be a win-win for everybody,” said Superintendent Arbulu. “We'd get an extra shelter, and we'd get that building repaired via a grant.”
Superintendent Marianne Arbulu also updated the board members to the actions she had taken to get a professional estimate on the damages left behind after the Jefferson Elementary School (JES) break-in.
In March of this year, five juveniles broke in the abandoned elementary school campus on Mamie Scott Drive.
During their illegal break-in and trespassing of the school, the five juveniles broke windows, trophy cases, lights, bookshelves, dispersed fire extinguisher agent and drew graffiti on the school's walls.
Officers from the Monticello Police Department estimated that the damage equaled upwards of $30,000 in repairs – but acknowledged that the estimate was far from expert and was more with guesswork than anything.
As the Jefferson County School Board is seeking restitution from the five juveniles, Assistant State Attorney Andrew Deneen (who will be prosecuting the case) requested that the school district hire professionals to go in, evaluate the damage and provide a more accurate damage estimate.
With that in mind, Superintendent Arbulu advised that she had employed companies to look at JES and provide a detailed appraisal on what it will cost to repair and clean the damage done to the elementary school during the March break-in.
“We have glass and cleaning companies coming out to look at JES,” said Arbulu to board members at the July 8 meeting, adding that once she has received the estimates, she will provide them to State Attorney Deneen, who will use the information in prosecuting the juvenile offenders.
Finally, Superintendent Arbulu provided news on the transportation and school bus services that have been offered by Jefferson Somerset to their students.
Since taking custody of the Jefferson County public school, Jefferson Somerset has held a contract with School District Services (SDS), a private company that provides school bus and transportation services to school districts around the Southern United States.
However, after constant flare-ups of conflict with the school district, with Somerset and with parents, Superintendent Arbulu announced that Jefferson Somerset would no longer be working with SDS.
“Somerset has canceled their contract with SDS,” said Arbulu, adding that Somerset is “expecting litigation,” as SDS fights the canceled contract.
Despite that, Superintendent Arbulu was pleased to report on Jefferson Somerset's behalf that the charter school will be personally taking on the task of offering school bus services to their students.
“[Principal] Cory [Oliver] says they are moving forward, and they will take over transportation next year,” announced Arbulu at the July 8 meeting with school board members.
Before the upcoming school year, Jefferson Somerset will be looking to either lease or purchase their own fleet of buses, which will be used to transport the school's students to and from school and after-school activities.
Despite this good news, Arbulu conceded that there wasn't much that the school district could offer to Somerset, as far as their fleet of buses went.
“There will be very few buses left from our old fleet that will be [in a condition] where it makes sense to repair them,” said Arbulu, although she said that she would continue working closely with Jefferson Somerset during this new undertaking in order to see what the district could do to assist in implementing these transportation changes.