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Mountain Brook Board of Education Newsletter February 1, 2021

Message from Board President Nicky Barnes

Happy New Year! Although we enter 2021 under restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mountain Brook Board of Education is still excited about the possibilities this year holds for our school system and community.

In addition to further elevating our standard of excellence, we are looking forward to beginning the pivotal capital improvement projects and diversity initiatives that will enhance Mountain Brook Schools for years to come. You can read about those, and other recent school board developments, in the paragraphs below.

Thank you for the trust you have placed in me and my fellow board members to guide our beloved system through these trying times and into a radiant future.

Sincerely,

Nicky Barnes

Capital Improvement Projects: Overview, Next Steps

Clockwise from top right: Renderings of proposed construction projects at Mountain Brook Junior High, Crestline Elementary, Brookwood Forest Elementary, and Mountain Brook High School.

Below is a timeline of the Mountain Brook Schools capital improvement projects.

September 2017: Mountain Brook Schools hired an architecture firm to audit each school, all of which are at least 50 years old. The audit revealed MBS needed to make capital improvements costing between $31 million and $87 million.

August 2018: MBS formed a 28-member community task force to assess the district’s spending and recommend actions it could take to pay for the capital improvements. The task force, Mountain Brook Board of Education, and Mountain Brook City Council determined an increase in the city’s ad valorem tax rate could help finance the projects.

February 2019: Mountain Brook City Council approved the school district’s request to hold a tax referendum to raise the city’s ad valorem tax rate by 10 mills.

September 2019: Mountain Brook residents voted in favor of a 10-mill ad valorem tax increase that was projected to generate an additional $6 million in annual revenue for the school district.

December 2019: Mountain Brook Board of Education hired Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors as construction manager for the capital improvement projects.

February 2020: With guidance from Brasfield & Gorrie, the Mountain Brook Board of Education hired three architects to design renovations across the school district: B. Group Architecture, Inc. for Mountain Brook High School, TURNERBATSON for Mountain Brook Junior High, and Goodwyn Mills Cawood for the four elementary schools.

March 2020: Mountain Brook Board of Education hired Raymond James and Stifel to underwrite the capital improvement projects.

October 2020: Each architecture firm presented its schematic designs to the Mountain Brook Board of Education. There will be three major, new construction projects — one at MBHS, one at MBJH, and another at Brookwood Forest Elementary — along with extensive renovations at Cherokee Bend Elementary, Crestline Elementary, and Mountain Brook Elementary. An overview of the work can be found here. The Board approved the designs and directed the underwriters to move forward in securing bond issues to fund the projects.

What’s next?

The project underwriters are in the process of securing approximately $75 million in bond issues and should have them in the coming weeks. Additionally, the Mountain Brook Board of Education will award bids for each project. MBJH will bid in February; MBHS and Brookwood Forest will bid in March; and the other three elementary schools will bid in April. The bids are staggered to avoid saturating the marketplace and allow contractors time to bid on multiple projects.

Projects will begin on every campus at the conclusion of the 2020-2021 school year. That includes breaking ground on the three major projects at MBJH, MBHS, and Brookwood Forest. Cherokee Bend, Crestline, and Mountain Brook Elementary will see the following work completed this summer and additional work in ensuing summers.

Cherokee Bend: Cafeteria renovation and nearby restroom renovations

Crestline: Auditorium, roof, HVAC renovations; potential construction start on a new gymnasium

MBE: New canopies, carpet, and paint; administrative and entrance area safety renovations; outside staircase renovation; restroom renovations.

"We're eager to embark on this series of projects and sincerely appreciate our community's support," MBS Superintendent Dr. Dicky Barlow said. "The planned work meets each school’s needs that were identified during the facilities audit and will enable our district to continue providing students with a high-quality education.”

Diversity Committee presents recommendations

Crestline Elementary Principal Christy Christian and MBS parent Dr. Al Cohn have served as co-facilitators of the MBS Diversity Committee since it first met in June 2020. At the Dec. 14 school board meeting, they presented the committee's recommendations for the school system to more effectively achieve the following strategic goal:

Develop or enhance structures and practices to ensure that the school district honors individual differences, diversity, and the dignity of all, and that all members of the school community are treated with respect.

The five recommendations are below.

1. Effectively develop diversity programming committees at each Mountain Brook School to develop programming that will enhance students’ experiences and opportunities to interact and partner with diverse communities and people.

2. Define hate speech and symbols as a separate actionable offense in the Mountain Brook Schools Code of Conduct.

3. Develop methods of communication with the broader Mountain Brook community about diversity opportunities and experiences to support students, families, and community members.

4. Develop partnerships with local and national organizations as a resource for professional learning, student training, and parent support, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, and the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center.

5. Exploration and development of authentic experiences through which schools experience positive interactions with more diverse communities in an effort to develop understanding, collaboration, and growth.

MBS is beginning to implement the committee's recommendations. Schools are in the process of forming their own diversity committees that will spearhead the initiatives on their campus.

Board extends Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, known as the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, is federal legislation that provides employees with up to 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave for specified COVID-19 related circumstances. The FFCRA expired Dec. 31, 2020, but the U.S. Congress extended it to some employers. On Jan. 25, the Mountain Brook Board of Education voted to extend the usage of the FFCRA paid sick leave provision through March 31, 2021.

Board Approves Special Compensation Checks

Mountain Brook Board of Education Vice President Tommy Luckie delivers a special compensation check at Mountain Brook High School on Dec. 11.

On Dec. 10-11, the Mountain Brook Schools leadership team handed out well-deserved special compensation checks to all full-time employees for their extraordinary contributions to students and the school system during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mountain Brook Board of Education approved a resolution at its November meeting to provide every full-time employee with a one-time payment of $500. The resolution resulted from many discussions between Mountain Brook Schools Superintendent Dr. Dicky Barlow and school board members.

“The effects of the pandemic have challenged professionals in education in overwhelming ways,” BOE President Nicky Barnes said. “The Board is beyond impressed with how these challenges have been met by our amazing employees. Amidst the pains and trials that have been endured, it was nice to be able to bring a little joy. We were happy to be able to show our appreciation for all the hard work they are putting in.”

Board amends meeting calendar

The Mountain Brook Board of Education on Jan. 25 voted to amend its meeting schedule for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year. The Board will meet on the third Monday of each month from March through May. In February, however, the Board will meet on the fourth Monday, Feb. 22.

Upcoming Key Dates

Feb. 12: MBS Professional Learning Day / Student eDay

Feb. 15: Presidents Day (No School)

Feb. 22: February Board of Education Meeting

March 5: End of 3rd Nine Weeks

March 22-26: Spring Break