SENECA - It was a lengthy Seneca School Board meeting on Monday night, but it was actually focused on just two agenda items.
Seneca District Administrator Dave Boland suggested that the board approve taking one the first new business items, the current COVID plan and school calendar, ahead of the last item of old business, winter extracurricular activities. Boland told the board the decision on the COVID plan and school calendar might impact any decision on the winter sports season. The board agreed and moved the new business up.
In discussing the COVID plan, Boland noted that Crawford County Public Health had previously asked the schools to go virtual with instruction of grades 6 through 12 for two weeks.
Following meetings with other district administrators in the county and school staff, Boland said he did not think going virtual with middle and high school students was necessary at this time. Neither did other administrators in the county.
Prairie du Chien has gone all virtual.
Boland said that since the beginning of the year, Seneca has had five identified cases with staff and five cases with students. He emphasized all of those cases were due to spread from family or community settings. None of the cases were spread from within the school.
Boland, as well as, school board president Mark Johnson praised the work of Crawford County Public Health in assisting the district during the pandemic.
However, Johnson and others noted there were other considerations for district, when it came to going all virtual education and not playing sports.
Crawford County Public Health is opposed to local schools playing contact sports at this time.
A parent questioned whether it was wise to not follow public health advice on suspending in-person instruction and not playing contact sports with the county returning to a Phase One rating (the most dangerous) for COVID infection.
Board member Rachael George, who works in health care at Crossing Rivers, confirmed the dire situation facing the county at this moment.
Boland’s suggestion to the board for action on the COVID plan was to continue with instruction as planned for all the grades K through 12. However, the administrator proposed altering the school calendar to allow for virtual instruction in the week following the Thanksgiving weekend.
Boland explained that the biggest threat to the district is infection from sources outside the building–such as family or the community. With the Thanksgiving holiday increasing chances of transmission through travel and celebrations, the district feared the rate of infection could increase. So, using virtual education in the week following the holiday could stop a spread at the school.
The plan calls for making Monday, Nov. 30 a teacher in-service day and Tuesday, Dec. 1 through Friday, Dec. 4 virtual education days for students. In-person instruction would resume on Monday, Dec. 7.
Board member Larry Kelley, attending the meeting remotely by computer, favored the proposal.
“As much as I don’t like virtual education or anything virtual, I think this makes sense,” Kelley said.
Board member Britany Joy disagreed with the virtual plan for the week following Thanksgiving.
“I think the school should stay open for the week,” Joy said. “You need to follow the guidelines with family and do what you can.”
Board member Chad Sime moved to change the calendar to allow the virtual education week from November 30 through December 4. The motion was seconded by Tyler Aspenson and passed 6-1. Joy voted no.
A contingent of parents was on hand to urge the board to approve moving forward with the winter sports season. A few of them were parents of volleyball players, who had approached the board in early fall seeking to get Seneca to rejoin the Ridge and Valley Conference fall volleyball season. However at that point, the board did not pursue reversing the decision to postpone all Seneca fall sports for the specially created fall season in late winter and early spring.
Several parents referenced that fall season decision in the discussion and cited the precedent being set by starting the winter sports season.
There was some back-and-forth over that fall decision to delay play, but both Boland and board president Johnson noted the decision was made and it was over with now.
Board member Rachael George indicated that given what she sees in healthcare, she could not see approving starting the winter sports season.
Board member Charles Clark also expressed some misgivings about making a decision that could negatively affect people.
Parent Sara Wall emphasized it was allowing individual choice to start the season.
Sime made a motion to move forward with the winter extracurricular schedule as proposed. The motion was seconded by Joy and passed 7-0.
Another matter that came up during the winter sports season discussion was ability of players’ parents and relatives to attend the game. In fall seasons, schools were allowed to give two tickets to each player. However, that is not currently an option because of restrictions included in the statewide mandate in place.
In discussing some of the procedures put in place for the season including distancing, washing basketballs, limiting locker room use, etc., Boland had mentioned the no-spectator situation.
The conference is currently planning the season with no spectators. For some conference schools, having no spectators was important for them to participate, Boland explained.
It is possible in the future that the conference could change the no-spectator rule to allow the two tickets per player. This was done for fall sports.
Parents at the Seneca School Board meeting Monday night strongly endorsed the two-ticket per player concept. They urged the board to go on record that the district would implement the limited spectator option, as soon as the conference would allow it.
Aspenson moved to have the two-spectator-ticket-rule put in place as soon as it was allowed for Seneca home games. Joy seconded the motion and it was passed 7-0.
Following a closed session, the board reconvened in open session and accepted the resignations of assistant wrestling coaches Brian and Melissa Haggensick, who had held the positions for several years. The district will look for a replacement.
In other business, the Seneca School board:
• approved another student for the Start College Now and Early College Credit Courses
• learned roofers patched a roof at the elementary school saving the district the replacement cost for several more years
• learned there would be no report cards for the 2020-21 school year due to the difficulties with instruction being caused by the COVID pandemic
• learned a natural gas line rupture in the street in front of Greener’s Corners caused a portion of the building to be evacuated for several hours in early November• agreed the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award should go the school’s support staff and teachers for the extra time and effort that they have committed to dealing with COVID pandemic situation