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GLENWOOD CITY — In a marathon session that lasted more than three and a half hours and featured several intense exchanges between some of the nearly two dozen audience members and the board as well as amongst audience members themselves, the Glenwood City Board of Education honored the Class of 2021’s top graduates. They then went on to make several decisions, chief among them a change in the district’s masking policy, approved nearly a dozen personnel requests including new positions for a special education teacher and an interventionist. It also gave the go ahead for purchases encompassing shared services, technology upgrades, new football uniforms and a wrestling mat, and landscaping for the elementary at its April 12 regular meeting.
Held in the high school commons once again, to accommodate an expanded community audience, the School Board’s latest docket was packed full of items needing attention. Its March 22 date was scrubbed due to COVID-19 close contact protocols which, coupled with several drawn-out discussions, particularly about changes to the district’s masking policy, caused Monday evening’s session to run well past 9 p.m.
One of the board’s first items of business was to recognize the top honor students in this year’s graduating class.
High school/middle school principal Patrick Gretzlock made the announcement and presented plaques to the 2021 co-valedictorians Delanie Fayerweather and Yasmin Leandro Mendez and salutatorian Annika Bauman. In addition, Alexis Wannemacher was honored with the Technical Excellence Scholarship and Fayerweather was named the winner of the State Academic Excellence Scholarship.
Gretzlock noted that the Technical Excellence Scholarship was valued at $2,250 per year for up to six semesters and the Academic Excellence Scholarship, which is awarded to the top graduating senior at each Wisconsin High School, is worth $2,250 per year for eight semesters.
The students along with their family members, Gretzlock, and board president Dr. Lisa Kaiser then had their photos taken to commemorate the honor.
A new masking plan presented by superintendent Tim Johnson promoted much discussion that not only consumed much of the hour-long committee meeting that preceded the regular session but also spilled over into the community comments portion of the meeting with some audience members speaking in favor of continuing to require masks in the school while others were vocal against the mandatory use of masks.
Johnson told the board that 31 out of the 39 area schools in CESA #11 would be maintaining mask requirements through the end of the current school year while three districts – Barron, Cameron, and Luck – have done away with all mask requirements.
The proposed new masking plan, as presented by Johnson during the committee meeting, would still require that masks be worn on buses, during transition periods, and in the classrooms where social distancing of at least three feet cannot be maintained. Masks, however, would now be optional when outside or within classrooms where the three feet of social distances could be accomplished.
In addition, contract tracing would be based upon contact within three feet for 15 minutes or greater, but parents/guardians will be notified that their child was in close contact to a positive case and will get to choose whether or not they would like their child to quarantine.
Johnson added that any sudden increase in positive cases would allow the administrative team to put back into place the mitigation measures that have been used throughout this school year.
This new masking plan would continue through the end of the year, and barring any new outbreaks or additional concerns or requirements from the health agencies, masks would be optional during the summer school session as a trial run for the fall.
Tom Klatt, a lifetime resident of the district and a GCHS graduate who has taught in the Hudson School District for 23 years, urged the board to keep the masking requirement. Klatt referenced his eldest son who had to quarantine at home the entire month of November saying, “He doesn’t do well at home. None of my kids do good at home.
“You get rid of the mask (requirement) and it takes off again, if it does, kids are put in a horrible situation,” added Klatt. “I think you can probably agree with me that kids do not do well at home.”
“Kids come to school to be safe!” continued Klatt. “How many kids are we going to have leave because now they don’t feel safe? They come here (to school) because they get a square meal, they don’t have meals at home. Thing happen at home, they come here to feel safe.”
“It’s not that much to ask for seven more weeks (until the end of school),” concluded Klatt, who pointed out several people in the audience were not wearing masks. “The funny thing about it, it’s not the kids who are complaining, it’s the adults who are complaining about things. Let’s just try!”
Sarah Lindamood stood to speak following Klatt’s statement and vociferously disagreed with him.
“Can you show me some scientific proof on their (masks) effectiveness,” retorted Lindamood. “You can wear a mask, that is your choice. You shouldn’t be concerned if I am wearing one or not.”
“It should absolutely be about personal preference and choice,” added Lindamood.
She went on to recount the concerns her children have and the physical and psychological effects that mandatory mask wearing is having on them.
“I believe in freedom! And I believe that we should have a choice,” concluded Lindamood.
The discussion of masks resurfaced later in the regular meeting when the board came to take action on the proposed changes to the district’s masking policy.
Eventual board member Chuck Draxler made a motion to accept and approve the superintendent’s masking plan as presented earlier. The motion, however, died for a lack of a second and discussion continued.
The board went through two more failed motions before finally coming full circle to approve Johnson’s original plan on a 5 to 2 vote. Members Sally Standaert, Jon Mrdutt, Lisa Kaiser, Chuck Draxler, and Steve Davis voted in the affirmative while Nate Simmons and Lori Klinger cast the no votes.
The new changes will take effect immediately.
The board also handled several other items of business.
During the consent agenda, the retirement request of transportation director Ben DeGross was accepted as were the resignations of first-grade teacher Paige Pax, and high school science teacher Dr. Randy Ketola. The board also approved posting for each of those positions.
In addition, the hiring of Jodi Voeltz as a seasonal summer maintenance worker, Rachael Nied as the assistant golf coach, Nichelle Baier to serve as a substitute teacher, Dean Fayerweather and Tanner Davis for the head and assistant baseball coaching positions respectively, Tryn Gross for the middle school track coach opening, and Justin Swenby and Matt Lamb as assistant football coaches/junior varsity coaches were all approved.
In the action items the board voted to accept the 2021-22 CESA 11 Shared services contract and approved Samantha Schreiber to move from a 10-month to a 12-month support staff position.
Several expenditures for the current academic year and 2021-22 were approved. Those expenditures included a new hot water pressure washer (2,000 PSI) for $7,425.60; 45 away and 45 home football jersey tops and 50 pairs of pants for $10,830; a 80-foot retaining wall and planting area at the Elementary to be built along the east ditch of 320th Street by Harvest Hills Landscape at a cost of $21,760; a new two-sided (one side containing the GC logo and the other has nine practice circles) wrestling mat for $12,402 to replace the current mat in the practice room; and some $160,000 for technology upgrades throughout the school.
The board also discussed a nearly $230,000 proposal from Cedar Corporation for improvements to the current baseball field that would include raising its elevation by adding fill, much like what was done to the football field/track, drain tile, storm sewers and inlets and topsoil. The estimate did not include dugouts or scoreboard expenses.
The next school board meeting is slated for April 26.