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GLENWOOD CITY — Like school districts throughout the area, state and nation, Glenwood City is grappling with the coronavirus and its effects on students and staff.
Glenwood City’s board of education Monday evening listened to concerns of the instructional staff and discussed the daily impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on students, teachers and support staff and the district’s ability to fully staff classroom instruction times during its November 9 session and its preceding committee meeting.
The board had spent a fair portion of its committee meeting discussing matters related to the educational options of in-person or face-to-face learning, virtual or online and blended models of instruction during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Teacher Matthew Schutz was in attendance and gave some perspective on the middle school learning and relayed some of the staff concerns of educating during the outbreak.
The board revisited the issue during a report from Program and Services committee chair Chuck Draxler, who said that discussion has centered around how the board and district are going to deal with COVID. Draxler said that three pathways had been identified.
First would be continuing the course the district is currently on for as long as possible, but as of Monday evening’s meeting, 90 students were out of school under quarantine with about 70 others expected to return to school that following day. In addition, Draxler said that 15 staff members are currently out of the building. Superintendent Tim Johnson said that staff member returns depend on daycare (which some are splitting with a spouse) so those returns are not as concrete.
Draxler said the other options were blended learning, in which half of the students come every other day to spread the students out so there is less contact tracing that needs to be done, and virtual learning.
One of the considerations for going to virtual learning is a time table, said Draxler. He then asked if the board had any further questions and considerations that they might want to add, after the discussions during the committee meeting had been cut short due to time.
Superintendent Johnson interjected, saying, “Or additional direction that you (the board) want to provide.”
That prompted Draxler to ask the superintendent if there was a particular direction that he might believe the district would attempt to follow over the next few weeks heading into the week-long Thanksgiving break.
“I think the next couple of days, quite honestly, will be indicative for us,” said Johnson. “It would be nice natural break to try and time if we are going to do a virtual for part of our building, to do it where it hits a weekend.”
“Wednesday or Thursday of this week, keeping an eye on next Monday would be one target for me,” continued Johnson. “And then we hit Thanksgiving break and we have time during that period to make some decisions.”
“My recommended course right now is to try and maintain our (current) path (of in-person instruction while quarantining positive cases or those that have been in close contact) right now but later this week make a decision on next week,” said Johnson.
He told the board that decision would be based on whether or not the district had other significant positive cases or cases with the students that impacts the high school or entity within the building, and whether or not the district could staff for next week.
“At some point, as we have talked about, if we are pulling positive kids together to arrange coverage we are being counterproductive in trying to keep kids separate and from being contagious,” the superintendent stated.
He told the board that his immediate course and recommendation would be to look toward the end of the week on how to proceed the following week, and then going into Thanksgiving break, the board and administration could make a decision on the weeks after the break.
Board president Dr. Lisa Kaiser inquired about the COVID dashboard that had recently been added to the district’s website.
Johnson said the dashboard gives a snapshot each Monday morning of COVID information in the district. Johnson went on to explain that for the second week in a row, the dashboard showed that high school absences were at 35 percent, mainly due to the coronavirus and possible exposure.
In the elementary, Johnson said absences have been under ten percent the past two weeks. This means it would be highly unlikely that if the district was following those metrics that the elementary would need to switch to virtual learning.
“As chaotic as it is to send 90 kids home today in our district, by tomorrow when we have 70 students come back, we are still going to have 65 percent of our kids in the high school attending and 90 percent roughly in the elementary attending,” added Johnson. “So we are still on the positive side of kids in session.”
Part of the equation is also keeping enough staff in the building, said Johnson.
Draxler surmised that a shortage of staff might be what drives the district to go virtual, to which Johnson answered, “Truly, since day one, that is what I have told the staff.”
Johnson had touched on the issue of instructional staffing earlier in the meeting. With just five regular substitutes to cover staff absences and the shortage of qualified teaching subs, the district is looking at creative ways to attract and secure individuals.
Johnson said that for current support staff employees that have the ability to get a sub license, that the district would pay for the license. The superintendent told the board that he would also like to move forward with the hiring of some permanent subs but not hire on a full-time basis.
In a related matter, Director of Pupil Services and Special Education, Nicole Brite, informed the board that they had not received any applications for the vacant school nurse position but she was going to be contacting qualified individuals in the community that might be interested. She also said that Tryn Gross, Health Office assistant, continued to deal with call ins.
Glenwood City Elementary principal Betsy Haltinner showed the board survey results from the recent parent teacher conference. With no in-person meetings due to COVID, teachers and parents communicated via phone, emails or Zoom meetings, stated Haltinner.
She reported that out of the 306 surveys that were emailed out, 66 responded. Of that group, 78.8 percent stated that the highly valued the format with 80 percent still feeling that parent teacher conferences were very important to them.
And of the three formats that were offered, Haltinner said that nearly 41 percent of conference were conducted over the phone, followed by email and only 16.7 percent were completed through Zoom.
During his administrative report to the board, high school/middle school principal, Patrick Gretzlock, gave board members an academic review of students’ performances after the first quarter, which had ended the previous week.
Gretzlock said that ten percent or 22 high school students had failed one or more classes. That percentage is down from the previous years, where an average of 15 to 20 percent of high school student had at least one failing grade. Of the 22, Gretzlock said 19 of them were the same students that had incompletes dating back to the fourth quarter of last school year.
In the middle school, Gretzlock said that a little over eight percent or 14 students had received at least one failing grade. Of those 14 students, just three had failed multiple failing marks.
He also noted that the fourth-quarter incomplete count was down to 14, but that 12 of those students still had multiple incompletes.
Gretzlock, who also serves as the district’s athletic director, said the winter sports season was set to begin next week with girls’ basketball practice. But due to the coronavirus, much of the basketball and wrestling schedules remain in limbo.
This meeting was the board’s only meeting for November. It will also meet once in December on the 14th, before resuming its regular bi-monthly meeting schedule in January.
In other action, the board approved:
• A $1,500 donation from the Glenwood City Basketball Booster Club. The Club is donating $750 to each the boys’ and girls’ basketball programs.
• The 2020-2021 School Budget of $8,734,446 of which $6,231,887 is from state aides.
• The hiring of Samantha Schreiber as an assistant girls’ basketball coach. Schreiber joined the district at the beginning of this year and works as an administrative assistant in the high school/middle school and elementary offices.
• The appointment of member Nate Simmons as the district’s delegate for the 2021 state school board assembly to be held virtually on January 20, 2021.
• The first and final readings and adopted changes to Board Policy 342 dealing with special education programing. Nicole Brite told the board that the special eduction handbook had been eliminated and replaced with a parents’ rights brochure and the policy had been rewritten to reflect this change, along with the addition of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) website where all the policies and procedures that the district is required to follow can be found. She also noted that the DPI website also has a “Special Education in Plain Language” handbook.
• The purchase of seven Miller Multimatic 220 AC/DC electric welding machines for $17,739.40 from Mississippi Welders Supply Co., Inc. Each unit cost $2,534.20, which reflects an educational discount from the company.