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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — It was one year ago the week of the Colfax Board of Education meeting March 15 that Governor Tony Evers closed schools statewide and issued the “Safer at Home” order in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s surreal. It seems like an eternity, and yet, it seems like yesterday,” said William C. Yingst Jr., school superintendent, in his report to the school board.
The Colfax school district is “doing well” and has been open every day since September, he said.
Some school districts in the state have only recently started bringing students back to their classrooms, while other school districts have mostly been open but have had to take a two-week pause here and there when the number of SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infections spiked.
Staff in the Colfax school district have started to be vaccinated with the first round of vaccine doses, Yingst said.
Yingst noted he had recently watched an interview on television with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and that Dr. Fauci had said while the number of COVID-19 infections has been dropping, the new daily cases in the United States is still at around 60,000.
According to Dr. Fauci, the infection rate is at a plateau and will either continue to decrease — or it will spike, Yingst said.
“We need to remain vigilant,” he said.
The fact that the Colfax school district has been able to remain open all year is a testament to the efforts of school staff, teachers and students to continue physical distancing, wearing masks, washing and sanitizing hands and disinfecting surfaces, Yingst said.
“I hope to make it through the rest of the school year … I’m proud of the staff. I’m proud of the team,” he said.
While wearing masks has become routine, it does not necessarily mean it has become easier to wear masks.
The teachers spend all day long, every day, talking through their masks, maintaining order and teaching — and that’s “quite a feat,” Yingst said.
Under adverse conditions, “we’re making it. We doing it. And I’m proud of that,” he said.
Colfax High School is planning to hold a variety of the regular banquets to recognize students this spring, said John Dachel, principal at CHS.
The banquets will be different, however, in that they will be held in the high school gymnasium, and each family will have their own table to maintain physical distancing from other families, he said.
The National Honor Society banquet to induct new members into the Colfax chapter of NHS was held March 17.
The FFA Banquet is planned for Wednesday, April 21.
And instead of one large athletic banquet and a Senior Awards banquet, the banquets will be held separately.
The cross country banquet was planned for Monday, March 22, while the volleyball and dance banquet was planned for Tuesday, March 23.
The boys’ basketball banquet is scheduled for Thursday, March 25; the girls’ basketball banquet is scheduled for Monday, March 29; the girls’ golf banquet is scheduled for Tuesday, March 30; and the Senior Awards banquet is scheduled for Wednesday, May 5.
Performances of the Colfax High School play, “Shrek the Musical,” will be held Friday, June 11; Saturday, June 12; and Sunday, June 13.
The beginning practice date for spring sports (track, softball, baseball and boys’ golf) will be Monday, April 19.
State-mandated testing will soon begin, said Polly Rudi, director of pupil services.
The tests include ACCESS (English language learner students); Aspire (grades 9 and 10); Forward (Grades 3 to 8 and 10); DLM (students with severe cognitive disabilities).
Students who are working at home, completely virtually, will be scheduled for a time to come to school to take the exams, Rudi said.
Colfax currently has approximately 34 students who are learning virtually in grades 3 through 11.
Rudi noted the school district is seeing more parents opting out of testing this year.
Schools are expected to have 95 percent participation in state mandated testing, she said.
Colfax currently has four students who have opted out of testing, three in the middle school/high school and one in elementary, Rudi said.
The primary reason for opting out has been COVID, she said.
Under the rules, Colfax is authorized to have one student opt out of testing, so the school district has applied for a waiver, Rudi said.
In recent years, the testing participation has been 100 percent, she said.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned that the Colfax High School student council has completed 75 gift packages for residents at Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center. The packages contained a positive note for each resident at CHRC. The money to pay for the gift packages was raised during Winter Carnival activities. Connie Gibson is the advisor for the CHS student council.
• Approved Early College Credit Program applications for the fall of 2021-2022. One student has applied for a class at UW-Stout.
• Accepted an anonymous donation of $1,000 for “unmet student needs.” The money will be placed in the Student Assistance Fund.
• Approved the shared services agreement with CESA 10 for the 2021-2022 school year in the amount of $19,060. The CESA 10 services are related to distance learning and E-rate support and planning.
• Approved the shared services agreement with CESA 11 for the 2021-2022 school year. The agreement includes Comprehensive Consulting & Networking Services ($6,125); 20 days of district level consulting services ($915 per day); Healthy, Safe, Respectful Schools ($2,375); Special Education Instructional Media Center ($2,050 base fee plus $500 per special education teacher); Title I Administration and Program Services (4.95 percent of the annual Title I allocation); Title III Consortium English Learners (paid with federal funds); a variety of services, including audiology, hearing impaired program teacher, occupational therapy and physical therapy (all calculated on an individual district basis); school based services ($74 per Medicaid eligible student); one day of a special education consultant ($925 per day); Supporting Students with Disabilities Network ($2,450).
• Approved hiring spring athletic coaching positions: Baseball — Kirk Secraw (head coach), Michael Hodel (assistant); softball — John Dickinsen (head coach), Rick Geissler (assistant); high school track — Ryan Krall (head coach) and assistant coaches Tina Johnson, Ally Heidorn, Chuck Brown, Isaac Lee, Kathleen Thorn and Brittany De Moe; middle school track — Megan Pawlak (head coach) and Kara Buchner (head coach). The list did not include a coach and assistant for boys’ golf. Elk Mound will provide the head coach for boys’ golf. This is the first season with Elk Mound in the golf cooperative, and the number of students who will participate this spring has not yet been determined.