The Salida school board unanimously approved two action items during its regular meeting Tuesday.

The first was a recommendation for two new positions to be added to the special education department, a 0.5 full-time equivalent (FTE) speech language pathologist and a 0.5 FTE psychologist for the 2020-2021 school year. The additions were requested by Superintendent David Blackburn in view of growth of the district’s special education population and severity of needs.

The second item would allow the superintendent to explore options in refunding the district’s 2012 general obligation bonds through Stifel Public Finance.

A third action item concerned 35 teachers wanting to go to Denver for a March 19 rally at the state Capitol in support of State Bill 20-089, the Educator Pay Raise Fund.

Several school districts in the state had already made the decision to close that day due to lack of coverage that would be needed. The planned discussion was how Salida would handle the situation.

During the meeting, however, Blackburn received word that Colorado Education Association had canceled the event in view of the COVID-19 crisis, so the action item was moot.

The board heard a presentation on finances and options related to bonds from Todd Snidow of Stifel Financial Corp. earlier in the meeting.

In other business, a detailed report on Salida Early Childhood Center by Principal Ilona Witty included federal guidelines for early childhood education and a video about brain development in young children.

Discussion items began with district response to COVID-19 in buildings and as a district.

School nurses and Andrea Carlstrom, Chaffee County public heath director, participated in the discussion.

Blackburn said custodial staff was exceeding the protocols suggested by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said maintenance manager Brandon Hawkins had already purchased a hospital-quality electrostatic sprayer to sanitize large areas.

Hawkins made the purchase last year. He said recently he had heard 800 of the devices were on back order in the wake of the spread of COVID-19.

Blackburn said the district is taking the situation very seriously and is taking its cues from Chaffee County Public Health as the situation progresses.

Carlstrom said so far younger populations have not been affected by the virus as much as older victims.

She said the county is working with schools and administration and preparing for various scenarios.

Discussion moved on to facility use fees, which have been the subject of debate for many groups who use Salida School District property for activities.

Following feedback from users, Blackburn and facility administrator Brandy Coscarella presented a simplified fee structure for youth and adult activity group use. The new structure would include a reduced rate if users scheduled through the city recreation department.

The new schedule will come up for a first reading at the April board meeting.

The board also discussed:

  • An update from Colorado Association of School Boards about state fiscal reality and tax reform.
  • Budget considerations for the coming school year including teacher salaries.

The board is next scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. April 14 at the Kesner Building boardroom, 349 E. Ninth St.

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