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The Elkin School Board on Tuesday celebrated the announcement that Elkin High School’s 2019-20 graduation rate of 96.7 percent was among the top 10 in the state. There are more than 600 traditional public and charter high schools across the state, according to N.C. Department of Instruction data.

The achievement was the highest graduation rate the high school has tallied in the past six years, said Superintendent Dr. Myra Cox. She commended the staff “for their focus on building positive relationships with their students.”

Among the board’s actions, Tuesday was voting to reappropriate previously unspent COVID-relief funds after the spending rules were given greater flexibility by regulators. Under the new guidelines, the district was able to purchase 165 Chromebooks, which allowed the district to bring the student-to-computer ratio for third-graders to 1:1 and also ensured grades kindergarten through second have classroom sets.

“At the 11th hour, we got the opportunity to move those (funds) around… we took advantage of that,” said Business and Financial Services Director Jan Zachary. “We were able to get those computers in before Christmas, which was a miracle in itself” because school computer purchasing has seen backlogs due to pandemic demand.

Surry County Health Director Samantha Ange presented an update on COVID-19 to the board, including a data presentation of 1,195 active cases in the county and 111 deaths to date as of Tuesday. Data from so far this January showed that approximately 15% of cases have been among those age 19 or younger — a statistic that has held relatively steady among the school-age population since the pandemic began, she said.

In response to board members’ questions, Ange said teachers will be eligible to receive vaccinations for the virus in Phase 3 of the state vaccination plan. The state is currently in Phase 2, which allows health care workers and older adults to receive vaccines. Ange said that approximately 73,000 people in Surry County are age 65 or older, and the county is only receiving about 1,300 vaccines from the state per week and administering them the same week. While the number of vaccines released to Surry County has been steadily increasing each week, it will still take a while to get all older adults vaccinated before moving on to Phase 3 when teachers are eligible.

In other business, the board took the first reading of several district policy updates that were suggested not in response to internal concerns, but instead as best practices recommended by the state school boards association. Policy updates included expanded detail governing teacher-student electronic communication and social media to address additional technologies used in response to the pandemic, and also formalizing the requirement that employees must provide a health certificate prior to returning to work following isolation due to COVID-19 isolation or known exposure.

The return-to-work health certificate process has already been in place since the beginning of the school year and the addition of it to written policy is a formality, Cox said. The board will vote on the proposed policy amendments next month.

Also at the meeting, the board welcomed student representative Reanna Rice and recognized teacher Randee Summers as the 2020 Exceptional Children Educator of Excellence. Rice, who is student council president of Elkin High School, attended Tuesday for the first time due to the high school not being able to hold student council elections until later during this pandemic year.