At the Aug. 3 meeting the Darlington Community School District’s Board of Education finalized some rules and plans for reopening school in September.
Maintenance director Lee Black came back to the board with more information on the ionization filters after he was instructed to gather it at the last board meeting.
Black stated he spent a lot of time on it, getting references from schools and hospitals that have the filters installed in their facilities, with a total of 1,500 schools already having them installed. Many schools and hospitals in the area are starting to install them as well. Neighboring Shullsburg School District just approved having the filters installed in their building. Hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic and Marshfield Clincs, along with UW-Health Services have them installed.
Black stated the filters did not give off or discharge any harmful byproducts. Studies claim the filters help clean out tuberculosis, MRSA, mold, bacteria and COVID-19.
RJ Brunkow questioned why the filters could now be installed in the DEMS building when before they were told the filters could not.
Black said in speaking with Tom Reilly of Reilly Plumbing and Heating, the filters will not have to change if the district plans on upgrading the HVAC system as the duct work will not change and the area filtered will not change.
The filters have over a 10-year life span with little to no maintenance.
Joe Schilling said, “They are still not proven. This money could be used somewhere else.”
Black stated the system is not perfect but it is the best option.
“This is the best option for what we can do to sanitize and purify the air for the kids. Because of the way the buildings are balanced, we are still exchanging as much air as we can. With the HVAC the way it is on the roof, three to four classrooms are mixing the same air. This is a way of purifying that air,” Lee explained.
Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County does not have this system because they are using negative pressure air units for singular rooms. That would not be feasible at the schools.
Schilling was still skeptical.
Board president Aaron Wolfe stated there hasn’t been a lot of research on COVID-19 in general as it is still very new and hasn’t been around for a lot of studies to be done.
“We could wait two years to be proven but that wouldn’t help us. I’m in support. I believe there is enough other benefits and we are not just spending money for the pandemic,” Wolfe said.
Joe Riechers made the motion with Bob Hermanson seconding to approve purchasing the ionization filters using either CARES or GEARs money. The motion passed 8-1 with Schilling against.
District Administrator Cale Jackson wanted to talk about masks in schools. The plan the district created was that masks will be required by all staff and students unless in activities like eating or outside running. If people can socially distance and if the teacher allows it, masks can be taken off.
Nick Zuberbuhler felt there was some gray area in allowing masks to come off when there is social distancing allowed.
“Masks should be on even if they are social distancing. It could open a can of worms. In the building, have it on; outside I’m fine with them off,” Zuberbuhler said.
Colleen Reichling asked about those with health issues. Jackson said if they bring a doctors note they won’t have to wear one. Zuberbuhler asked what constitutes a health issue. It was mentioned that usually those with asthma constitute as a health issue in wearing masks.
“I don’t see this mask issue going away anytime soon,” Zuberbuhler said.
“Our job is to provide the safest environment as we can,” high school principal Aaron Lancaster said. “I’m on board with keeping it very black and white and if you are in the building you have a mask on.”
Hermanson made the motion with Brunkow seconding changing the district’s plan to read “State and local orders will be followed. In the absence of a state or local order, facemasks will be required for all staff and students while in the building except for eating”.
Riechers asked if everyone has to wear a mask even if they need it or not.
Unless they have a doctor’s note, Reichling responded.
“If this was as bad as everything thinks it is, there would be more people in the hospital and dead,” Riechers said.
Brunkow replied with 156,000 people dead is a lot.
Riechers stated, “Not in Lafayette County it isn’t.”
Teresa Siegenthaler added, “I don’t like the masks either but I want to do what we can to open the school and get kids in the school. That is the most important thing, whether you like it or not, you need them to wear it.”
Reichling asked how the district was going to handle students not wearing masks during the school day. Lancaster said they would handle it like a dress code violation with the same process and send them home if necessary.
Reichling was nervous about legal action against the district. Wolfe said there are many different way districts could be sued but they couldn’t prevent themselves from doing something that is proven to work just because they are afraid of being sued.
“This plan is a good one and we could argue everything on here but in reality this all might have to change in the next couple of weeks,” Hermanson said. “We will see what works and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly.”
The motion passed with Riechers against.
Jackson stated there were options the district could do about temperature checks for students. One would be to ask parents to check their child’s temperature before they come to school or purchase some infrared thermometers for each entrance, which has proven to be time consuming for summer school students or the third option would be to purchase machine temperature scans. There were two options: one is wall mounted and the person would walk up to the device and it reads the temperature in a few seconds and send that temp to the office. The other was a camera mounted temperature scanner that could be placed in the hallway and take the temperature of everyone walking in the hall and if there is a high temperature detected, it would send that to the office. The wall mounted one was $2,000 and the camera one was $6,000.
Jackson said multiple units would need to be purchased for the DEMS building and the high school entrances. The camera option has facial recognition and could be used later to let students into the school and can detect when no mask is being worn. It can recognize faces by uploading pictures from Lifetouch from the yearbook.
Jackson was unsure of how long the students name and temperature would need to be stored once it was collected and if it would be considered medical records and HPPA.
Brunkow questioned instead of spending $20,000 on those high tech thermometers, why not outfit each student with a thermometer.
Riechers asked about what will happen when students get on the bus and if bus drivers should have them.
Wolfe stated that if the school would want to take the students temperature everyday then they might need to spend the $20,000 or so for the high tech thermometers but if they didn’t need it everyday, they could get by with just a few of the camera mounted options.
Jackson said the camera could be kept on all day and monitor the halls and send information to the office.
DEMS principal Lori Nodorft stated that many students go into the school at the same time and it will get harder to take temperatures when the weather gets colder.
Zuberbuhler said the camera option could help with reducing influenza in the school as well.
The board questioned if they would have to do any documentation on what the student’s temperature was and keep that information. The district nurse stated that currently they have to document a student’s temperature.
Reichling and Zuberbuhler like the idea of the camera mounted option. The board asked the district nurse to find out more information on documentation before making a decision.