Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Milstead talks school closure questions

Changes to grading, graduations, personnel coming in light of coronavirus
Friday, April 17, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

In his report to board members during Tuesday's Lincoln Parish School Board meeting via video conference, Superintendent Mike Milstead highlighted the decisions that must still be made in the wake of coronavirus closures, including topics like graduation ceremonies, grading for the final nine weeks, and potential personnel cuts.

Gov. John Bel Edwards officially signed a proclamation Wednesday to extend his previous order to close school campuses for the remainder of the academic year, which in Lincoln Parish was slated for May 21. But Milstead said that doesn't mean the school year is over.

"The educational process continues for us," he said.

Graduation ceremonies

Ruston High School, Choudrant High School and Simsboro High School will not be able to hold their graduation ceremonies as originally planned in May, but Milstead said he hopes the events will still take place in person the following month.

"It's our goal to have those as live ceremonies in the month of June," Milstead said in an interview Wednesday.

"If we can't get it done by the end of June, we'll have to do something virtually."

In order to not obstruct college applications, he said students will get their diplomas in June one way or another, even if in-person ceremonies cannot be held.

Taking grades

Before the class of 2020 can graduate, of course, they have to receive class credit for the final nine-week grading period in one way or another.

While the school district continues to roll out distance learning efforts via online resources and paper packets, Milstead described this information as "enrichment or extra credit" during Tuesday's meeting.

"Since we can't monitor all of that, we as a district have to have some leeway for students," he said. "We're working on how to best determine how we arrive at a grade for our students at the end of the year, with emphasis on our seniors right now."

A letter to Ruston High School seniors from Principal Dan Gressett and Milstead outlines a plan to take a student's highest grade for each class from among the first three nine-week periods and apply it to the final grading period.

Milstead said for now that is only the plan for graduating seniors, but something similar may be implemented for all grade levels after an upcoming meeting Monday with school administrators and central office staff.

In other words, grades from distance learning coursework administered after school closures began will not be taken to determine final grades, outside of some cases where extra work may be given to help bring a student's grade up.

"We're not doing anything that will hurt their grades," Milstead said Wednesday. "Our biggest concern is GPAs for kids who are going to college and could affect a scholarship, so we don't want to do anything that would adversely affect that."

He said the district is considering retention for some students in "serious cases," but final decisions on how widely that will take place have not yet been made.


As reported Thursday, the school district is expecting as much as a $1.5 million deficit this fiscal year caused by reduced sales tax collections during virus-related business closures as well as possible reductions in state funding.

Milstead said during Tuesday's meeting that the district is cutting back on all non-essential spending, including maintenance and operation funds.

But salaries and benefits make up the bulk of the school system's expenses, and all four of its sales taxes on the books pay into various salary supplements.

With that in mind, Milstead said personnel cuts for next school year may be unavoidable.

"It's going to be a problem," he said. "If we get federal government money that can supplement our losses, then cuts may not have to be as severe. But I am not anticipating that there's going to be enough supplemental money to make up for everything."

The district was already expecting to cut another 10 or so positions before the coronavirus situation, after making similar cuts each of the past two years as budgets have continued to end in the red.

"But with these up coming (revenue) numbers, I think it will be quite a bit higher than that," Milstead said.

Supplement checks and meals

All school district employees usually get salary supplement checks every May and November paid out of the school board's sales tax collections.

The board originally approved the supplement check for this May at $5,825 for certificated personnel and $2,913 for support employees, but reduced revenues caused by the coronavirus closures may change that amount.

The final payout has not yet been set. But eight months of the 12-month fiscal year that pays into the supplement check occurred before the virus situation, so Milstead said the May check will "absolutely" be issued at some level.

Meanwhile, the district's meal pickup service will continue through the remainder of the academic year, with all students eligible to pick up two days' worth of meals on Mondays and three days' worth on Wednesdays at eight school locations across the parish.

The final pickup date for that meal service is set for May 20.