SENECA - Seneca’s three fall sports seasons will be moved to spring, the Seneca School Board decided at their meeting Monday night.
On a 6-0 voice vote, the board approved moving football, volleyball and cross country to a season following the end of winter sports and before the start of spring sports. Brittany Joy, wife of an assistant football coach Derek Joy, abstained from the vote.
The head coach of the Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben Blu-Golds, Justin Goodrich attended the meeting. He told the board that while he favored a fall season, he would understand if they made the decision to not play in fall and opted for a spring season.
Goodrich emphasized that it was important to him that the board make a decision so that he could make plans based on the decision. The coach also noted the importance of the co-op team with the Wauzeka-Steuben School District, which has revived the football programs for both schools.
“I don’t want to go back to the days of 17 players on the team,” Goodrich said.
The board seemed to acknowledge the importance of the co-op team and several board members wondered if Wauzeka-Steuben should be consulted in the decision.
Board member Chad Sime said reaching the decision is like a family reaching a decision.
“We have to make the right decision for our family and they have to make the right decision for theirs,” Sime said.
Board member Tyler Aspenson questioned whether the co-op team didn’t constitute its own family.
The discussion of fall sports was far-ranging and lengthy. In addition to football, board members talked specifically about the volleyball and cross country seasons.
Seneca District Administrator Dave Boland said the Ridge and Valley Conference had decided teams playing in a fall volleyball season would wear masks.
Board member Larry Kelley described the mask idea as wrong.
The cross country season would be a little different, as the meets would try to keep runners apart at the start and finish. This might include a staggered start and separate finish lines. Masks might be required at the start.
Boland emphasized he favored not doing something in the sports season that would endanger the academic instruction at the school.
“Personally, I think the most important thing is to run the school, we should only do other things if they will not affect running the school,” Boland said.
Board member Rachael George questioned whether playing the fall sports now would actually defeat the purpose of the measures being taken at the school
“My opinion is the same as David’s,” George said. “Let’s get the kids back in school and get them caught up.”
Larry Kelley, Charles Clark and Dave Boland all agreed that there would be exchange of body fluids during a football game and transmission of the virus could occur.
Coach Goodrich said that some teams were using face shields on the helmets, but ordering them now would probably result in a four- to six-week wait for delivery.
The WIAA (Wisconsin Independent Athletic Association) in guidance released last Friday told the state’s school districts they were free to make their own decisions about playing sports this year. However, the WIAA did set up revised schedules and timelines for fall sports that included delayed starts for fall sports and a separate re-scheduled spring season. Football would play seven regular season games and have two post-season games.
The fall sports discussion and decision was preceded on the agenda with the final approval of the school re-opening plan. Three parents were present with questions and comments on the plan. All three were unmasked and stood in the rear of the band room during the discussion.
Curt Check and Jamie Oppriecht wanted to know about the rule for wearing masks in school.
Dave Boland said the rules for the reopening included wearing masks and social distancing. The administrator noted that masks would be required constantly inside the building in accordance with latest order from the governor’s office.
Seneca’s original plan had allowed for removing masks in well ventilated indoor spaces where social distancing of six feet or more was being maintained. That rule has changed to include masks at all times, while inside while the current order is in place.
Check told the board that the COVID pandemic was exaggerated and that he had travelled all over the country and to a large Little Britches Rodeo without a mask among others without masks and had no problems.
“What is the plan?” Check asked as the board took up approving the finalized plan.
Dave Boland, the district administrator, explained that Pre-K would come every other day as they have in the past. K-5 would come to school every day as they have in the past.
However, grades 6-12 would be divided into four groups and each group would attend in person for three out of four days and attend online on the day they were not present in-person. The reductions in students present would result in more space to social distance in the classrooms.
“So, we will always have three-quarters of the kids (grades 6-12) here,” Boland said. “Everybody will wear masks except at recess and to eat. And everyone will stay six-feet apart.”
Check said he felt the “mandate for the masks deal was stupid.”
“COVID is a bunch of crap,” Check said. “It’s how you live that’s important.”
Check also questioned the ability of masks to prevent infection and cited the CDC as a source.
Jamie Oppriecht said the family had four kids in school this year. She said nine hours was too long for children to wear a mask. She said she had a face covering on about a quarter of the time-typically when she went to the grocery store and other places.
Oppriecht said she favored taking temperatures of children as they got on the school bus. The school currently plans to take temperatures at the door of the school building.
The district administrator believes the bus drivers have enough to do without being responsible for taking the temperatures.
A symptom of COVID is a fever over 100.4 degrees.
Boland talked about other parents’ reactions. One who works in a nursing home is not comfortable sending her child to school. She explained that if he brings home COVID, she can’t work or she will go to work and get people sick in the nursing home.
Board member Chad Sime noted that the plan being put in place is the school re-opening plan and not the school year plan.
Check asked what the results of the school district’s online survey were,
Boland informed him that three-quarters of those responding said they were coming back to the school this fall. In answer to Check’s question Boland noted that some said they don’t want children to wear masks.
Referencing the results directly, Boland reported 77 percent said they would attend in-person and 10 percent said they would attend online. Another 12 percent were looking at other options.
Check said the family’s children would not attend the school if they were required to wear masks. He said the family would check later to see if the policy was changed.
Oppriecht said even doctors and nurses don’t wear masks for 12 hours a day.
Board member Rachael George, who is employed at Crossing Rivers Health, said she did wear a mask all day at the hospital. She noted that wearing masks and social distancing does help to slow the process (of infection) down.
School bus driver Mike Durst, who attended the meeting in person and wore a mask, explained that during flu season there are ads urging people to cover their cough or cover their sneeze. As for the mask, he said he would wear it with a positive attitude.
“What if it kills you?” Check asked.
Following the discussion with Check and Oppriecht, Eric Grimsled came to the front of the room without a mask, grabbed a chair and talked about a teacher he thought should be fired.
Board president Mark Johnson told Grimsled that the board could not address the matter in open session because it was a personnel matter and that it was not on the agenda.
Mark Johnson moved to approve the finalized re-opening plan with minor modifications to allow for four groups instead of just three in the rotation for grades 6—12 and changing the rule to say masks always must be worn while inside the building to be in compliance with the state order.
Ultimately, Charles Clark seconded the motion and the board passed it on what appeared to be a unanimous voice vote.
Before the reopening plan passed, George asked if the students could go outside to eat their lunch, weather permitting.
Boland said they could and there were a couple of picnic tables and more would be made available. A board member noted that the students would have to social distance during lunch even outside
Charles Clark asked what would happen if someone was sent home because of fever, but did not get a COVID test. Boland said if they did not get a test, they would have to stay home for two weeks the same as if they had a positive test. He noted that if a person was sent home because of a fever but tested negative for COVID, they would only need to stay out for three days.
In other business, the Seneca School Board:
• decided to not accept a proposed contract change from Stratton Buses seeking payment for cancelled days in the future
• approved re-adjusting in-service days on the school calendar
• approved payment of $200 for membership in Wisconsin’s Association for Equity in Funding
• adopted a new policy on ‘Education of Homeless Children and Youths’ following an audit of school policies by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
• adopted a policy for ‘Vendor Conduct at School’
• approved ‘Notification of Meetings’ policy to acknowledge online messaging
• closed 31 inactive lunch accounts mostly for families that no longer live in the district• chose to present the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award to Pam Lorenz, a grandmother of an elementary student, for providing a toothbrush for every student in the district and to Silas and Rebekah Dudgeon for providing sweet corn for lunches in the last week of summer lunch program