SENECA - It was a short meeting of the Seneca School Board Monday night. There was no old business to address and only three items on the agenda under new business.
The first item was the pressing new business of the day, adopting an infection prevention plan.
Seneca School District Administrator Dave Boland presented a plan designed by the administration using guidance provided by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction two weeks ago.
Essentially, the goal of the plan for this school year is to identify people who are sick by symptoms, kids or staff, and send them home. They could be sick with the flu, COVID or something else, but they need to stay away from school until the symptoms are gone. That’s the new message. And, it’s an old message – if you’re sick stay home.
In addition to guidance from DPI, the school district also had input from the Crawford County Health Department and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
There was also new guidance from the Center for Disease Control dropping the six-foot social distancing, mandatory testing and quarantines for being exposed to someone , who had COVID.
“The CDC advice pretty much echoed the DPI,” Boland said. “The state said pretty much the same thing.”
The six-foot spacing rule has been dropped and although masks will not be required, those who wish to wear a mask would be supported, Boland explained.
The plan also takes the advice of the DPI in maintaining good ventilation in the building, emphasizes washing hands and thoroughly cleaning classrooms and other spaces at least once daily.
This year’s plan is based on looking for symptoms of illness and when two symptoms are identified getting the individual, student or staff, to go home and not return to school until 24 hours after the symptoms go away. Some of those symptoms are fever, difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, coughing, sore throat, nausea, fatigue and headache.
Boland said that Crawford County Public Health has urged people to be careful in the homes, because lots of the infections are spreading inside households.
Boland said the school could continue offering testing and could make the home testing kits available to students and staff to take home for use there.
The Crawford County Health Department has told the school they are prepared to provide home testing kits for use by students and staff at their homes.
“If you have symptoms and don’t want to be tested, you need to go home,” Boland said.
In fact, it’s not just about COVID. If you have symptoms of illness the school wants you to go home and return when you have been symptom-free for 24 hours and being fever-free for 24 hours. A negative test will not be required to return.
For those that test positive for COVID, they need to isolate for five days. Then, when they return they must mask for days 6 through 10 or until they test negative.
Boland asked the board if they wanted the school to continue to notify parents of the number of COVID cases in the buildings and notify parents when cases are found in specific classes. Board members seemed to think that was appropriate.
Board member Adam Green questioned some of the use of symptoms to judge what should be done and how that should be used. After some discussion some of the language in the original plan was dropped, because it was seen as confusing to the whole plan’s idea.
“Who makes the official call on whether a student should be sent home-the staff or the office?” Green asked.
“If they’re sent to the office, they’re probably going home,” Boland said.
At one point, board member Mark Johnson commented on the approach Crawford County Public Health is taking.
“It seems the county is counting on people to do the right thing,” Johnson said.
When the illness infection plan had been explained, the board approved it on a voice vote that appeared unanimous.
The second item on the new business agenda was renewal of the football co-op agreement with Wauzeka-Steuben for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. The Blue-Golds new head coach Derek Joy had addressed the board earlier in the public comment period.
Coach Joy told the board he was in favor of approving the co-op with Wauzeka-Steuben. Joy, a longtime assistant coach, said he had seen the success of co-op during eight seasons it has been in existence.
The increased numbers have allowed freshmen to play on junior varsity team, instead of being overpowered in their early years by playing against larger players on the varsity squad.
In answer to a question, Joy said it was possible in the future that the co-op could play eight-man football. He said as the team must go further and further to find 11-man teams, those teams are increasingly from larger and larger schools. This can create some tough matchups for the combined enrollment of the two schools, which is about 160 right now. The largest the combined enrollment of the two schools has ever been was 2019 when it was over 200.
In other business, the Seneca School Board:
• passed motion to adopt 403B hardship withdrawals of up to $5,000 for the birth or adoption of a child from employees’ optional retirement account without penalty
• accepted the resignation of fourth grade teacher Jessica Dworschack and hired Alisha Sowle as a new fourth grade teacher
• learned Johnson & Block was about to do the final audit of the 2021-22 budget
• learned the final deficit for the 21-22 budget will be $51,493 due largely to several unforeseen maintenance projects
• learned the new telephone system went live August 5 and there is a new telephone number for the school 1-608-737-9177• learned new teachers would be present on Thursday; all teachers would be present for staff training August 23-25 with an open house on the August 25 schedule; and Monday, Aug.29 would be the first day of school for students.