The Macon County School Board discussed purchasing property for the new elementary school at its work session last Thursday night.

The board heard from Mid-Tenn Engineering regarding site studies conducted on the land.

Chris Ballou told the board that there were some wetlands and a stream on the property, but that there wasn’t anything that would hold back the intended project. He said there should be no environmental problems as long as care was taken to keep anything out of the stream during construction.

Ballou said they also found a layer of chert rock around five to six feet deep, but that that was not unusual for this area.

“It’s a good site for the intended project to build a school on,” Ballou said.

Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles asked if there was a specific area of the site that they recommended. Ballou said that the southeastern quadrant appeared to be the most desirable.

“It would be really easy to come in there and connect the road coming back from behind the high school,” Ballou said.

He continued that there was also potential to connect a road from Macon County Junior High to create a bus path and keep bus traffic off of Highway 52.

“With Highway 52 being the primary entrance out there, there will have to be a TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) study on Highway 52,” Ballou said. “Really, you’re going to be putting a road in. It won’t just be a driveway. It will be a road. It may require a light, or a traffic signal.”

Ballou added that the light may eliminate the need for someone directing traffic in the area.

Boles informed the board that the original intent to purchase agreement would expire on Sept. 20.

“We’ll need to make a decision,” Boles said. “I talked with (Macon County) Mayor (Steve) Jones today, and they have agreed to allow the board to use the referendum money for 77 acres, and we have to buy the 24. We have that money in our budget.”

Boles said he felt that the board should vote at the next meeting to pursue the purchase of the Manion property.

“That’s our next step and it needs to be made quickly,” Boles said.

Boles also told the board that the board attorney was reviewing the potential contract with Upland Design Group to be the architects on the new elementary school, which will be further discussed at the next meeting.

Local parent Jennifer Dillon also spoke to the board regarding a concern she had about the district’s current truancy policy, which only allows three excused absences before a student’s guardians must meet with school officials regarding the student potentially being truant.

The district will also not accept parents’ notes as an excuse. Macon County Attendance Coordinator Michael Owens explained that the No. 1 cause of chronic absenteeism was due to parents’ notes.

Board member Wayne Marsh said that he felt that the absentee policy was part of training students for adult life.

“If you get a job and you don’t fulfil the needs, you’ll be looking for a job somewhere else,” Marsh said.

Board member Lionel Borders added that school administrators “have enough common sense to recognize parents trying and parents trying to abuse the system.”

Dillon said she did not feel that it was fair to have to get a doctor’s note any time a student may not be feeling well in order to avoid truancy.

“I think that our staff, our teachers, our principals ... I think that they will understand that and recognize that you’re trying,” Borders said.

The current attendance policy, which requires the guardian meeting at three days of unexcused absences, is already in effect, but the board will vote at is next meeting to officially change the language in the current policy to match.

The board also discussed extending faculty and staff’s COVID-19 relief days from 10 days to 14. Board member Tim Case pointed out that, because the quarantine is not 14 work days and is 14 days from time of exposure, weekends would already build in those additional days for employees.

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