BOSCOBEL - Discussion and consideration of topics related to moving forward, as the 2019-2020 school year disrupted by COVID-19 draws to a close, was the focus of Monday night’s meeting of the Boscobel Board of Education.
Two main themes were clear as the board considered a variety of topics related to the summer and the opening of school next fall.
First, as District Administrator Greg Bell Jr. put it, “The situation is very fluid.” As Bell reviewed the anticipation of guidance from the Department of Health Services (DHS), as well as information he is gathering from discussions with other school districts in Southwest Wisconsin and other education related agencies, one thing was clear; “No one has answers.” As a result, Bell told the board that he and his administrative team are looking at and making tentative plans that will look at various possibilities ranging from a full opening with students in school, to full virtual learning, and the various combinations in between.
The board held a lengthy discussion on the educational impact on students due to the loss, and potential loss, of in-school instruction and interaction with teachers and peers. They also spent time considering the impact of a disrupted school year to families and other stake holders.
The second main theme, repeated as Bell reviewed possibilities or requested board approval for several items, was that the District’s goal was to do everything possible to minimize the risks for students, their families, and all staff related to COVID-19. Bell repeated several times during the meeting, in various ways, “We can’t provide a 100 percent guarantee that we are free (from the virus), but…we are taking every precaution we can to keep people safe.”
Summer school delayed
With access to school buildings closed due to COVID-19 until June 30, the administration had previously made the decision to move summer school sessions to August. When access to buildings and guidelines for re-opening are provided, programming and dates will be determined by the administration. Summer school at the high school level will focus, as in the past, on credit recovery, while the elementary programming would center on school readiness preparation for the fall school year.
Weight room access
Bell asked the board to allow him and his team to determine guidelines and protocols for opening up the gym and weight room for use after June 30th. A lengthy discussion ensued over what protocols might look like, with school nurse Suzanne Brinkman providing input from a medical/health perspective.
Several considerations were explored, including scheduling, entrance to the facilities, monitoring attendance, sanitation procedures, monitoring health conditions of attendees, and supervision. Again, Bell emphasized the need to proceed with the safety of all concerned as a priority.
Playground still closed
The board approved Bell’s request to adopt guidelines for opening those facilities. Elementary school principal Danelle Schmid mentioned that the Elementary playground was in need of some maintenance, but asked if that area would be opened. The board determined to revisit the decision on the Elementary playground opening at their July meeting.
With COVID-19 Bell, with the assistance of school nurse Suzanne Brinkman, has been exploring sanitizing sprayers and systems to best sanitize areas of school buildings to keep them safe for use. After reviewing several models with Brinkman, Bell asked the board to approve the purchase of a Spraying and Bucket System provided by Hillyard. Bell stated that the Karcher Mister (the sprayer system) has been selected by several other local districts and seemed to provide the best quality and service.
Bell described a “bucket system” that will be implemented once students return in some form to the classroom. Each room will have two buckets, one containing a pre-mixed cleaning solution with microfiber rags. The other bucket will be for rags as they are used throughout the day that will be collected by the cleaning staff and washed for use the next day. Teachers will wipe down desks and common student areas in their classrooms in between classes. This will require some adjustments to how the end of class and beginning of the next class may take place.
Bell’s request for the system was for four sprayer systems, one each for the high school-middle school, elementary school main building, the bus garage, and a shared unit for the Rock School and Annex building. The sprayer systems are $1681 per unit, for a total of $6,723. The cost for disinfectant and disbursement stations of approximately $500 per building, added an additional $2,500. The bucket system for the entire district, including the cleaner and microfiber towels is $3,500. The total cost to the district would be $12,723. Bell stated that he believed funds from the CARES Act could be available to fund at least a portion of the system.
Bell presented preliminary budget numbers for the board’s review and approval for the 2020-2021 school year. The final budget will be brought to the public and the board for approval at the Annual Meeting in October. Bell reminded the board that due to COVID-19 and changing conditions, the formation of the preliminary budget required considering several possible scenarios. There is a possibility of increased funding from the state of up to $179 per student, however, cuts to state aide could occur as the result of the reductions in state revenues due to COVID-19.
The administrative team used Baird consultants to examine the various scenarios, and as a result Bell was proposing a preliminary “flat-line” budget using the figures from 2019-2020. Bell pointed out that there were items included in the 2019-2020 budget that were one-time costs to the district, but that there will most-likely be unknown costs in the upcoming year that will need additional funding.
Once again Bell mentioned that some costs may be paid for through the CARES Act, but by providing the same amount as last year there would be some level of flexibility. The board, upon Bell’s recommendation, approved a preliminary budget for 2020-2021 of $11,583,535.
In a related matter, the board granted authority to the District Administrator and the District Office to make time sensitive purchases, and pay salary and benefits between July 1, 2020 and the Annual Meeting in October of 2020.
In other matters:
· A lengthy list of policy updates were given approval on their second reading, with the exception of two items which were tabled for further review until the July meeting. These were regular policy updates recommended by NEOLA to keep up to date with related legislation and court rulings.
· Approval to repair tile flooring in three classrooms at the elementary school, and to replace two stair treads in the Rock Building to be done by Kevin Walker, Walker’s Flooring. The full project done in the amount of $6,500.00
· Approved renewing of the SWEEP contract, an arrangement among areas school districts to share equipment, purchase common items, and share discounts. A study of the savings provided done three years ago showed that the savings in supplies pays for the cost of being a part of the agreement.
· Approval of the 2020 High School Activities Code
· Extended contract for FFA advisor for summer activities. Five days were approved rather than the usual ten due to several cancellations of events usually included, such as county fairs. The five days were approved with the understanding that additional days could be added if needed.
· Mr. Bell was given authority to pursue examining the possibilities of, along with costs and guidelines for moving to one-to-one Chromebooks for Boscobel High School students.
· Overnight Trip Requests approved for several organizations, with dates and times to be determined due to possible COVID-19 restrictions.
· Donations accepted: $30 from Boscobel Pharmacy to the Band Department, and $250 from the BHS Class of 1999 to the high school Student Council.
· Accepted the resignation of high school special education teacher, Sidney Lippens
· Approved the hiring of Elementary Secretary—Sarah Miles, and High School Business Education Teacher—Marc Chiefari
· Approved Fall Coaches: Assistant Football Coach: Cody McCollough, Volleyball JV Coach: Shaeden Carlin, Volleyball Freshman Coach: Jaquelyn Purple, and Volleyball Mentor: Joan Anthony
· Approved Project Search Van Driver—Terry WattersApproved contract extensions, including a 2% increase, to Elementary Principal Danelle Schmid and Director of Special Education Laurie Genz Prien