In a meeting earlier this week, Dawson Springs Board of Education members approved adding 20 minutes of instructional time to each school day, beginning when school resumes on Tuesday.

Classes haven’t been in session in Dawson Springs since dismissal on Dec. 10.

“By adding time, students will be able to end the school year on May 20 as specified in the original school calendar,” said Allen. “This would have school starting five minutes earlier each day and going 15 minutes longer.”

“Potential future action taken by the Kentucky state legislature may allow some relief that would allow us to make changes to this plan,” Allen informed the Board.

“We’ll revisit and make changes as the legislature allows,” assured Whalen.

In an emotional moment, Dawson Springs Board of Education Chairperson Vicki Allen officially declared the school board position held by the late Jennifer Bruce as vacant.

Bruce lost her life on Dec. 10 when the EF-4 tornado struck her residence on Elaine Drive.

“The Board will attempt to fill the open seat by holding a meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31,” said Allen. “Applications must be received on or before Jan. 26 at noon to Superintendent Whalen.”

Superintendent Leonard Whalen acknowledged the sadness in the room. “This is probably the most difficult Board agenda item that I’ve had in the nine years since I’ve been here as superintendent,” he said.

Bruce was elected to the seat with an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2024.

“The person appointed by the Board will be required to file and run for the seat in the Nov. 2022 election if they choose to and want to hold that seat until the term expires,” Allen said.

In an interview following the meeting, Whalen clarified eligibility for those interested in filling the open seat.

“When I inquired about the matter to multiple legal counsel who all deal in this realm, they all essentially agreed that, for a person to be eligible, they would have had to be eligible to file and run for the seat prior to the tornado,” he said. “This would mean they’d have to meet all the normal requirements a Board member would have to meet, but specifically from a residency perspective.”

“This means they would have to meet the requirement by living in the Dawson Springs school district when the tornado hit,” Whalen explained. “If they lived in the Dawson Springs school district when the tornado hit, and are now living displaced in Madisonville or somewhere else, for example, and honestly intend to move back into the Dawson Springs school district as soon as possible—then they would be eligible to apply for the seat.”

“Jenny would be the first one to say ‘Take care of that school,’ ” Allen said.

In other business, the Board:

• gave its approval to allow Whalen to secure a partnership with Safework CM and Matthew Watson to help with submissions made to FEMA. This is the “same person as the City of Dawson Springs is using,” explained Whalen.

• agreed to continue with the mask protocols “due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant” as outlined in the district’s COVID-19 operations plan.