Submitted by Dr. Jeremy Burright, Fairfax R-3 Superintendent

The last two years have been years for the history books and busy years for public schools. The Fairfax R-3 School District is no exception to this and we want to share with you some of the big ideas and issues that we have been wrestling with this year and what we will most likely be wrestling with in the near future. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic still linger. Missouri legislators have produced new laws and programs for us. We will be moving into strategic planning for the district and were able to join our students in celebrating success.

While we would all like to move on from COVID-19 precautions, we are not able to do so completely. All districts participating in using ESSER funds are required to keep a safety plan in place until the expenditure window is closed for the last round of ESSER dollars. This means that our safety plan will remain until September 30, 2024. We will periodically be contacting community members for feedback on the plan in order to stay in compliance with requirements. That feedback will be reviewed by our Board of Education and then used to make any needed modifications to our plan. As of now, we are planning on minimal safety protocols for the fall of 2022. Details on changes to our COVID-19 plan in preparation for a new school year will come out closer to the start of school in August and will be posted in our school safety plan on our district website.

Legislators worked hard to help districts reach a higher annual teacher salary during this legislative session. Our representatives in Jefferson City passed a budget that allows for schools to opt into a $38,000 minimum annual teacher salary. While most, larger districts were already close to, or above, this amount for minimum teacher salaries, smaller districts may struggle to reach this number. This target will be a reach for many even with the state reimbursing 70% of the difference between our current salaries and the $38,000 target. While we are thankful for what appears to be one-time money from our state budget, our district will have to make hard decisions about teacher pay and the long-term financial health of our district should we decide to opt-in to the grant to increase our minimum teacher salary.

Legislators also funded 60% of Career Ladder, which will allow teachers to earn money for student contact hours outside of the school day. Until this year, Career Ladder has existed in state statute, but has not been funded by the state budget. While some districts still have Career Ladder, most moved the money they spent for Career Ladder to other budget items when it became clear the state wasn’t funding it anymore. This, too, presents a financial hurdle for districts.

It was a busy legislative session and we will start the fall of 2022 with new rules for virtual schools and charter schools, changes to school funding, mandatory lead testing in water, and an education omnibus bill with 22 different provisions for education. The 2022-2023 school year is shaping up to be another challenging year as our district looks ahead in order to comply with legislative requirements.

Missouri schools will also be starting a new accreditation process in the 2022-2023 school year. Our test scores from the 2021-2022 school year will be used in this new process and will be reported out this fall. We will also be revisiting and revising our Continuous School Improvement Plan (CSIP) to ensure that it is driven by community input. The CSIP is the roadmap for our district and should be used as a guide to make decisions on anything from construction to curriculum. We will need the input of our Fairfax community to get this work done so please be ready to provide feedback via surveys, emails, and onsite sessions as we revise our plan.

This year, we were able to join our families in celebrating success both academically and in our extra-curricular events. EA Lady Wolves Track earned first place state finishes in the 4×400 and 4×800. EA Wolves Baseball earned a 2nd place finish in district play and our EA Volleyball Girls placed first in district play. Not to be left out, our cheer team also qualified for state. Our Fairfax Marching Bulldog Band placed 1st at MWSU Homecoming, 3rd at NWMSU Homecoming, and our pep band was selected to perform at the state basketball tournament. Additionally, four junior high students received a “one” rating for musical performance. Fairfax sent two students to state competition for FFA and 51 out of 65 junior high and high school students made the A or A/B honor roll. Our students continue to show strong performances both inside and outside the classroom giving us reason to be very proud.

Of course any pride in the performance of our students stems from the hard work of our staff, the support of our families, and the help of our extended community. The Fairfax R-3 School District benefits from volunteer organizations, individual volunteers, donations, and an amazing staff. We are thankful for the care and attention our families give to the students we share that prepares them for success in our district. We are thankful for the investment from our community and for the opportunity to help care for the children of the Fairfax R-3 School District.