The USD 410 Board of Education was very busy this past week, as they met twice to discuss district business. The first meeting, which happened to be the regular monthly meeting, occurred on Monday.
An optimistic Max Heinrichs, superintendent, shared with the board that in spite of a daily increasing number of COVID positive and quarantined cases, things should soon die down since “a majority of those out come back the 13th and many more within the week after that.” This was said in spite of an additional positive test result of a staff member (with multiple school-aged children) that morning as well as other possible cases still coming in due to waiting on test results.
Heinrichs was asked by board members about concerns of more positives and additional quarantines, but he saidd that most would soon be back.
Unfortunately, rather than numbers going back to normal following Monday’s meeting, the cases did continue to rise, causing an emergency meeting to be held on Thursday, Nov. 12.
A somber Heinrichs reported that while cases of positives and quarantines remained low in the middle school, cases went even higher for high school students and staff.
“As you take a look at these numbers, we have changed. We update this every day. Elementary is staying pretty flat, and Evan [Yoder, elementary principal,] said staff can stay the way they are and they can keep functioning. Right now, we can fill all of our spots at the elementary. At the middle/high school, the subs are getting less. It’s hit our staff with quarantine. It’s hit our staff with positives. We have an unusual high amount of numbers in quarantine of 64. And there are 10 more I need to add because of a positive case that I got to at the end of the day yesterday. Right before this meeting, I received a call of another positive case in the high school, so I will have to go check on that after this meeting what that means,” Heinrichs said.
Heinrichs reminded the board that the elementary building was fine but encouraged the board to vote for a change for the middle/high school. The gave two options:
“One: we could make HMHS go hybrid. That would mean for core classes, half the classes would go in the morning and half in the afternoon. We would need to figure out connectivity issues. Some of our students are in homes with Internet issues, so we would need to figure out how to help with that. We would figure out a way to have them here all day or, Two: we could go remote. This causes a bunch of other issues. I would still want connectivity issue students to come in. And we would have to have IEP students so we can help them. But we could have all of these students in the building and could spread them out,” Heinrichs said.
Heinrichs again emphasized that they had to do something.
“I don’t want any more positives. One is one too many,” Heinrichs said.
“Another concern is that parents are pulling their kids out and moving to remote anyway with the increase in cases, correct?” Jim Paulus asked.
“Exactly,” Heinrichs said. “There are concerns all the way around. We have had several families make that switch already.”
Heinrichs said there were some concerns for students feeling isolated if the district moved to the remote option, and the board agreed with this. He shared that, with the hybrid option, students could still do remote if that felt like a better choice, or they could do hybrid. It would provide more options.
All kids who ride the bus would come in for the morning to eliminate buses going back and forth multiple times a day.
The board also discussed sports and how that would work.
“We are going to limit our stands and our auditoriums. Looking at two people per student,” Heinrichs said.
Kim Klein brought up providing a Facebook live feed for home games to allow fans to watch without having to pay.
Rod Koons asked about putting a freeze on all activities for two weeks since school is being altered and the musical is being postponed.
“Maybe we need to look at it all and do the same thing across the board,” Koons said.
“If we are going to go to the extreme to keep kids safe during school hours, we need to do the same for after school,” Paulus said.
Klein brought up the point that middle school is already into their season, so it would be difficult to have the high school postpone their season while the middle schoolers continue theirs.
After much conversation, the board approved a move to hybrid learning at Hillsboro Middle/High School beginning on Nov. 16 and continuing through Nov. 24.
They also approved a one-week suspension for Hillsboro Middle/High School sports beginning Nov. 16.
According to the letter sent out by the school, Hybrid Learning means “half of the students will attend in the morning; then the other half will attend in the afternoon. This strategy helps us maintain better social distancing in our classrooms, which will result in fewer quarantines, so more students can continue to come in person on a regular basis. While there is only half a day of in-person classes, your child is expected to work on school work for the other half of the school day on their own.
“Parents of students with IEPs, your child’s teacher will reach out to you and let you know how their services will look like in this model.
“We will remain on a block schedule, although the classes will only be 48 minutes long in each session.
“If you are currently learning remotely, you will still be joining the class through Google Meet at your designated time. If your child is in quarantine, they will still remain in quarantine until the already defined time.
“The morning session goes from 8:00-11:24. Morning session students will still be able to eat breakfast at 7:40. If morning students are eating lunch at school, they will take their lunch as they leave. Bus riders will be able to eat in the cafeteria before they get on the bus.
“The afternoon session goes from 12:06-3:30. Afternoon session students will be able to eat lunch beginning at 11:40 in the cafeteria. All students will still need to fill out the lunch survey in class the day before.”
The board also decided to postpone the high school musical that was scheduled for opening night just hours later and several more shows, including an online showing. A new date has not yet been set.
A special board meeting will be held at 12 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 23.
In other business for the regular monthly meeting, the board:
•approved the 2019-2020 Professional Development Committee My Learning Plan Annual Learning Report
•approved the following donations:
-Donation of $5,000 from Frontier Farm Credit to be used for the Farm to School Program
-Donation of $117.02 from Kroger to be used for Hillsboro Elementary School Site Council projects
•approved the fiscal year 2020 audit report
•approved the retirement of Pam Bartel from her position as Hillsboro Elementary School Administrative Assistant effective Dec 31
•approved Holly Dalke as the 2020-2021 Hillsboro High School Assistant Softball Coach
•approved the resignation of Alex Jost as the 2020-2021 Hillsboro Middle School Assistant Wrestling Coach and then approved him as the 2020-2021 Hillsboro Middle School Head Wrestling Coach
•approved Tesha Werth as the 2020-2021 Hillsboro Middle School Girls Assistant Basketball Coach
•approved the payment of bills totaling $498,747.41 and the following reports:
-USD 410 Activity Account Report
–USD 410 Activity Account Bank Reconciliation
District Report of Transfers
-District Cash Summary Report
-District Expense Budget Report