Maryville City Schools hopes to install a second press box before the first home football game in August but must score a price below $100,000.

The Board of Education voted Monday to accept Lamon & McDaniel of Maryville as the low bidder on the project but award a contract only if the price can be lowered from the bid of $158,498.

Director Mike Winstead told the board that the bid was for a structure the same size as the existing press box, 60 feet long, an open metal structure with a roof and electricity. He is confident that by cutting the size in half they can bring the cost within the budget of Maryville High School Athletics, which is funding the project through revenues such as sponsorships and ticket sales.

“If we can’t, we’ll punt it,” Winstead said.

One alternative is to rent a lift for the opposing team’s coaches and media, as he said Alcoa High School has done.

Maryville’s current press box on the home side of the field holds the visitor coaches, home coaches, announcers and any television or radio staff, making it crowded when a game is broadcast. The Daily Times sports reporters often are forced to stand on the sidelines, although some writers prefer that.

With an agreement, construction could begin within two weeks on the new press box.

School meal debt

In two other votes Monday, the board kept all fees at the same level for the next school year but adopted a new policy on debt for meals in grades 8-12.

Maryville Junior High and Maryville High School students who exceed $50 in charges will receive a sandwich, fruit and milk instead of the regular lunch.

“Every kid will be fed,” Winstead said. “It may not be the meal that they want.”

He estimates only half a dozen students would reach that level, although a couple have had charges reach $200.

At one point the school meal debt districtwide exceeded $8,000 for the most recent school year, but it ended at $3,226.

Winstead explained that the debt can be treated like a library fine or other fees, which means students who aren’t paid up don’t receive certain privileges.

“It’s called prom and walking at graduation,” quipped MHS Principal Greg Roach.

Winstead told the board that the handful of students who have debts exceeding $50 appear to be spending money at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts and then smiling as they charge the cost of school meals.

Schools already have been talking with families about the potential for the new policy, Winstead said in an interview after the meeting.

“We’re always going to make sure the kids get fed, and we’re not going to embarrass anybody at all through this,” he said.

“Part of what we want as a society is to help develop responsibility,” Winstead said, noting the new policy does not affect students in kindergarten through grade seven. They will continue to receive the same meal as others no matter their level of charged debt.

During the meeting, he cited a recent article in “Education Week” in which school nutrition directors said meal debts rose when states passed “lunch shaming” laws, barring them from offering alternative meals and other actions. One Oregon district said its debt went from $1,200 to $104,000 in two years.

Students from low-income families can apply for free- and reduced-price meals, and Winstead said the school community can help families with short-term income problems.

The board also passed policy updates based on changes from the state and recommendations from the Tennessee School Boards Association covering topics such as online courses and charter schools.

One policy requires the district to identify by Feb. 1 students it is considering holding back in a grade, but Winstead said in most cases the school officials know that by winter break.

Students have three years to complete kindergarten and first grade, so those who are placed in a transition class are not considered retained, Winstead explained.

The board approved several technology purchases and buying foreign language textbooks as part of its consent agenda. As part of the regular agenda it approved:

• $27,799.20 for science materials and $68,785.50 for biology materials, both of which include online and printed content.

• $71,940 for 60 Lenovo ThinkStation Workstations to replace computer labs at Coulter Grove and Montgomery Ridge intermediate schools. Although all students in those schools now have Chromebook computers, those machines aren’t capable of running some levels of software.

School board members took time before a moment of silence opening the meeting and in their comments at the end to express their support for the Reagan and Talley families after last week’s death of a father and son — a teacher and student in the district.

They also cited the strength of teacher Miranda Talley Reagan, whose husband is believed to have caused the death of their son and himself.

“I’m proud of how this whole community has responded and wrapped its arms around these families,” said board member Chad Hampton, expressing sentiments echoed by the others.

Amy Beth earned her degree from West Virginia. She joined The Daily Times in 2016 on the education beat covering Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County school systems.

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