The Berkshire Board of Education Monday agreed to hire more substitute teachers that were granted temporary licensure under a new state law.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in January signed into law amended House Bill 409 addressing the urgent need of school districts to hire an adequate number of substitute teachers during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is in response to the substitute teacher shortage,” Superintendent John Stoddard told board members. “It will allow the district to determine alternate criteria in order to facilitate substitute teacher licenses, thus expanding our pool of candidates.”

HB 409 allows districts to hire individuals who do not hold a post-secondary degree as a substitute teacher for the 2020-2021 school year only.

Board members also approved a motion granting the superintendent authority to prohibit retention of certain students under the third-grade reading guarantee, which was also signed into law by Gov. DeWine.

The state law prohibits the retention of children in the third grade based solely on a student’s academic reading performance for this academic year unless the building principal and reading teacher do not favor advancing the student to the fourth grade.

“This gives the district flexibility to use means other than the Third Grade Ohio Achievement Assessment for Reading as the determination for students being promoted to fourth grade,” said Mr. Stoddard. “Currently if a student does not hit a threshold score on that assessment they are automatically retained, so passing this resolution will allow us to use other means to determine that promotion and not lock us into one all or nothing test.”

A resolution establishing a $1.18 million capital projects fund was approved by board members for a 10-year period with money coming from specific school district revenues including the proceeds of property sales. “This will be used for permanent improvement projects,” said Mr. Stoddard. “It will give the district discretion to use the funds for the purchase of items that have a life of five years or more.”

If no contracts have been entered relating to the capital projects fund during a period of 10 years after its establishment, the money will be returned to the original funds, officials said.

The Feb. 8 meeting was held via Zoom. The next regular Board of Education meeting is scheduled for March 8 at 6 p.m.

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