The Henry County Board of Education unanimously voted Thursday to delay the artificial turf project at Patriot Stadium.

The board met at the county school system’s bus garage near Barton Field.

“We had a well-developed plan to serve track students, band students, football students and the community,” Director of Schools Leah Watkins said. “ … And then COVID-19 hit.”

The project will not move forward until the board decides it is responsible to go ahead with work.

Issues stemming from COVID-19 include timeliness and labor availability, as well as the possibility of another spike in coronavirus cases and possible subsequent shutdown.

“It’s a disappointment, in a way,” said board member Tom Beasley. “But I do think it’s the right approach.”

The cost of the project was another aspect of the discussion.

“There are people in Henry County that aren’t able to make any money,” said board member Rod Frey. “I don’t know if it would be right for us to spend eight or nine hundred thousand dollars right now.”

Watkins said that before the decision, the system was already running into snags regarding the projected cost being higher than anticipated and the slimming likelihood it would be done before the 2020 football season.

“Our bids came in high, higher than we anticipated,” said Watkins. “And we want to do this project right.”

The board agreed that it would be best to postpone the project until further notice.

“We don’t want to rush into something and not get it done in the right way,” said Jill Coker, board chairman.

In other meeting business:

• The board unanimously approved the budgets for the 2020-21 school year.

Watkins said the budget committee was able to budget for the year within its revenue.

“It’s a very conservative budget, and I think that’s reflective of the times that we’re in,” she said.

The budget includes the additions of Patriot Playschool, which is a new employee day care program, as well as allocations for middle grade soccer and a countywide competitive choral program.

It also includes a 1.5% raise for certified staff, bringing the system’s starting teacher salary to $40,603.

• A resolution to suspend policies that have been impacted by COVID-19 through the end of the school year was unanimously approved.

There are several exams that students must take to graduate Henry County High School, including the ACT, a civics exam, and end-of-course exams.

These are not able to be held currently, and Watkins said there were a few students put at risk for not taking them, through no fault of their own.

These requirements will not have to be met for students to graduate.

• Maintenance Supervisor John Akers said the band building has received its certificate of occupancy.

He said it still needed some sodding, a grate and some window graphics installed, but it’s otherwise complete.

He said the library has been painted and floors and ceilings have been installed.

• The system will release guidelines next week for those attending the HCHS graduation on May 29.

“I’m making a plea to our community to please follow these restrictions so we can honor the seniors,” said Watkins. “They deserve this.”

Guidelines intended to protect the students and community will include parking guidelines, seating assignments and the use of masks and hand sanitizer.

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