A theory: there are a lot of teachers, students and parents wondering at what point the summer evaporated.

Teachers and staff return to the public schools Monday, students the following week, as a new school year gets underway.

The Gulf County School Board, with partner Centennial Bank, will host welcome back breakfasts on each of the county the first two days of the week, and training is on the menu immediately following each morning.

During a meeting Tuesday night, the school board put in place the district’s mental health plan, added services, approved a millage rate and clarified student supply needs.

On a small individual level in the school safety arena, the board approved a resolution to participate in the Fortify Florida Program.

Fortify is an app that can be uploaded to a cell phone or other electronic device and allows the “relay of information anonymously concerning unsafe, potentially harmful, dangerous, violent or criminal activities or the threat of these activities to appropriate school officials and public safety agencies.”

The app is free and the district will upload it to all district computers and laptops.

Board member Cindy Belin said it would be a valuable tool for students and staff.

 

Mental health services

The board approved a memorandum with Florida Therapy Services, Inc., a long-time provider, for mental health services and with Big Bend Community-Based Care, Inc. to place tele-health kiosks in all schools.

In addition, an allocation plan was approved placing a guidance counselor at each school with a social worker or counselor also assigned to each school.

Life Management provides the backstop for all district schools with its crisis teams.

The services provided by Big Bend Community-Based Care, Inc. comes as an initiative out of the governor’s office to provide tele-mental heath services to 63 schools in the six counties most impacted by Hurricane Michael, from Bay to Franklin to Jackson.

Similar services were already being used by Big Bend in providing tele-health in some prisons and rural jails.

George Baston from Big Bend will oversee implementation and by the time students arrive in 10 days each school’s guidance counselor’s office will have a kiosk with basic tips on using the software.

Training, Baston said, will come once schools have settled from opening.

Each kiosk includes an Apple laptop to allow mobility within the school.

In very short strokes, the kiosk’s software will allow communications, in a HIPPA compliant fashion ensuring privacy of all information, between providers, parents, school personnel and students.

Up to 99 individuals could be using the software at one time and remain HIPPA compliant, Baston said.

The software also allows for the measurement of such health factors as blood oxygen levels, pulmonary efficiency and EKG.

And, Baston emphasized, the services are there not only for students, but teachers and staff.

“This is primarily for behavioral health,” Baston said.

The cost to the district is nothing for the first two years and $50 per month per school to continue the program thereafter.

The goal for Baston is training and subsequent utilization of the tool kit the kiosk provides.

“I want you to get use to it,” Baston said. “I want you to have the advantages of this equipment.”

 

School supplies

Despite what was characterized as a “snafu,” the effort to provide school supplies to as many students as possible continued to come together with tax-free back-to-school shopping days arriving.

At the elementary school level, a grant from Save Our Children was not quite at the level the district had been led to believe, but with contributions from a variety of other sources, including the Gulf County Education Foundation, school supplies will be provided.

That does not include backpacks or lunch boxes; those must be provided by the student.

Those other sources could include the Florida Department of Education.

The FDOE has also been provided the basic supply list for high school students and the department has indicated a desire to assist, district staff said.

Parents and guardians were encouraged to contact their child’s individual schools for additional information.

 

Budget

Board members approved a budget and millage rate for the fiscal year which began June 1.

The total millage is just shy of 13 percent below the rollback rate, that millage which would bring in the same level of revenue as the just-completed fiscal year.

State lawmakers sliced a bit off the millage rate that must be levied locally to receive state funds and the School Board took a more significant slice over the one component it controls, local capital outlay.

The board’s final budget hearing will be 5:15 p.m. Sept. 10.