Menomonie School Board Special Meeting Sunday | WisCommunity

Menomonie School Board Special Meeting Sunday

March 15, 2020 - 5:04pm
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Menomonie School Board Emergency Meeting of 3/15/2020

The meeting started discussing the COVID-19 disease plans.

There are still no cases of COVID-19 in Dunn County. Closing of the schools is intended to lower the spread of disease in the community by flattening the curve.

All schools will be closed by 5 PM on Wednesday. In Menomonie everything is shut down over school break already out of concern for the virus.  Schools will remain closed until at least April 6. There was no chance to do much planning for this other than telling students to take everything home that they could. Under the state closure order specifics of school closure are up to the local school districts. 

There is a possibility of an extended closure of 8-20 weeks. The current plan will involve a loss of 10 school days. We have lost very few school days this year to snow days so if students return April 6 there will probably be more total  hours of instruction than last year.

Virtual Learning - there are some students whose full program is virtual, and that will likely continue. It is not possible to drop an on-line school district into place for everyone when they return from vacation.  The district has made strides in e-learning over the past few years and many teachers are skilled at that. Online education has not been mandated so not all teachers have that expertise. Not all students have reliable fast internet access. Some have no access at all. Some providers such as Spectrum are offering free access but that will not be immediately available. 

Some teachers do not have access either. Many students have special needs that are guaranteed, so if virtual instruction is offered it cannot be just for a subset of the students. Many students could not thrive in a virtual environment. 

PRIORITIES

"We need to do a good job communicating" - Joe Zydowsky, Superintendent. 

Translating services may be needed in the long term.

The nutrition department has worked for some time on a plan for feeding students. They have been working since the initial announcement that this may be a problem on Feb. 25. There will be a survey for families to sign up for meals. There will be student welfare checks done by staff members, and the families will be asked if they would like to sign up for meal services. There will probably be both delivery and pickup options. 

The program will initially be run like the summer meal program, and would be free for all of the students. This is an ongoing discussion, but there would probably be a drive-through pickup program. This will likely take place at the High School. 

The district is making an effort to provide Chromebooks for students who do not currently have a computer at home.  Zoom online conferencing is available to the district for free and teachers will be given training on using this to conduct meetings. Teachers will also work together to become more conversant with online instruction. Students may be given better access to the district's network. There may be the possibility of moving or adding access points so that students could use the network from, for example, outside of buildings as the weather improves. Remote desktop software has been installed so that staff can better remotely help students with problems with their computers at home.

Protecting School Staff - the capacity and health of the staff must be respected, and the district must respect the spring break so staff can have a rest. Many staff have given up vacations, but their plans should be respected. 

The Employee Assistance Program will be used to provide additional support to staff members. It is important to set reasonable expectations for work for staff during the closure and maintaining physical distance between employees. Staff may be able to come into the buildings, at least for the time being. Working virtually from home is a tool that will also be used. Staff will in some cases need training to be successful. 

Many staff will be concerned about paying bills, and juggling being parents with being teachers. There will be plans to provide child care and to maintain controlled access to the buildings. 

The School Board Association is researching the legality of having virtual board meetings and whether that would conflict with open meeting laws. 

It is likely that states will be given waivers on student testing under the circumstances. DPI has indicated they plan to expedite waiver requests for required hours of instruction if needed. 

An emergency sick leave bank may be required, though there has been no recommendation brought forward at this time. 

The off-time may be a good time for some professional development opportunities, depending on how the situation unfolds, and depending on staff capacity and workload. This may also be an opportunity to do some building work and cleaning that is usually difficult. 

Plans are in place for doing payroll and paying district bills if the buildings are shut down. If the state is unable to process shool aid payments it is possible that the district will need to set up a line of credit to continue operating, but that is unlikely.

How can people help?

Many people have contacted the district wanting to help. For the time being the best thing people can do is to heed the advice from the CDC to stop the spread of the virus in hopes of limiting the length of the school closure.  As things stand the plan is to keep district work in-house since the district has people who want to continue to work and pay their bills. There will be a need in the community for daycare for kids who will be home from school. Be cognizant of your neighbors and their needs, including sharing the care of children. 

Changes to SDMA Employee Leave Policy. 

The board will add 10 days of paid leave for every district employee to cover the school closure. If there is an extended closure this may need to be re-visited. This change was approved by the board.

Changes to Development of Administrative Rules

This was also approved by the board.

The meeting was adjourned.

Video of this meeting will be available sometime tonight, Sunday, March 15, 2020. Unfortunately, apparently due to a faulty SD Card, the video of this meeting is truncated and is only the first 15 minutes of the meeting is in the video.

Attached Document

Comments

Your profile picture

The agenda says it is Sunday, March 15th, at 5pm.

Your profile picture

Typo --- yes, it is Today, Sunday. It's fixed, thanks for pointing it out.

Your profile picture

Damned defective SD card! But thanks Steve.

Your profile picture

Well, the card is on the way to the landfill now, so it will never darken my door again.

Steve Hanson
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