Pay raises for DeForest Area School District staff, including the superintendent, were approved at the Nov. 9 school board meeting, while an update on school reopening was also provided.

Some public comment at the beginning of the meeting expressed opposition to an increase for Superintendent Eric Runez, but the board unanimously passed a 1.5 percent increase for each returning employees who receives an administrator contract for the 2020-21 school year.

Board members commented that the district’s group of administrators had worked extremely hard this past year and felt the compensation hike to be fair. They noted the pressure and extra hours the administrative team has experienced this past year.

Board Ambassador Linda Leonhart said, “As a former principal and central office administrator, I can attest to the behind-the-scenes work that is going on at all levels of the district during these extraordinary times. Now more than ever, our staff and administrators deserve appreciation and increased compensation.”

The board also unanimously approved additional supplemental compensation of $525 to each cell on the Teacher and Specialist Salary Framework for the 2020-21 school year, with Sue Esser abstaining.

More compensation was also approved for district support staff members for 2020-21, with 38 cents added to each cell on the Support Staff Wage Schedule. This was also unanimously approved.

A 2 percent raise in the salary or hourly wage for supervisors, coordinators, district-wide specialists and district-wide hourly support employees was also unanimously approved.

Board Director Jeff Miller said, “To be able to provide our staff with an increase while reducing the overall mill rate to our taxpayers, all during a pandemic, is fantastic. I know how hard they have worked to make this current school year a success. I am proud of each and every one of them.”

School reopening update

Runez provided a review of Dane County COVID-19 data from Public Health Madison Dane County (PHMDC).

In his report, Runez noted that the targeted metrics for reopening school for students in grades 3-5 have not been met, as the percent positivity metric increased by 6 percent.

Emerging data and research will continue to be reviewed, with increased collaboration with Public Health, according to Runez. The superintendent added he anticipates an update to school guidance within the month.

Dane County’s 14-day average number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, currently sitting at 277 cases per day. That’s up from the 214 reported in the last snapshot from the county.

During this two-week period, the overall rate of cases in Dane County was at 71 per a population of 10,000 residents. There are nine municipalities in the county that had rates significantly higher than that, according to Runez’s report.

Sports clusters were also identified in the Public Health update.

Local data from the district’s medical advisory team was also reviewed, as the average number of positive tests per day in the past two weeks is 12.9. The average positive percent results is 21.1 percent. Runez reported that the trajectory is “flat,” and while the sample size is too small to base decisions on, it is helpful for comparison and to identify trends.

Runez reported that the team is focusing on operational issues at this point, including cafeteria use, school photos, cooling off periods and burden threshold metrics. It was also noted that if future PHMDC updated guidelines allow the district to plan for phasing in more students, the medical advisory team’s meetings may become open to the public, with a recommendation brought forward for the board’s consideration.

Board members have expressed interest in becoming informed about the risks and liabilities, as well as the benefits, of future expansion of in-person learning that may not conform to PHMDC guidance.

An update was also provided on the K-2 hybrid model the district is currently employing, which allows for some in-person learning for students in those grades.

Runez said additional recess time will be added by bundling mask break times. That will allow teachers to connect and offer feedback for students who are virtually learning on those days.

With upcoming breaks in the school calendar, two-day weeks will consist of one day in person for the two different groups.

The district sent out communication last week about changing choices for instruction at the trimester. They will be confirmed the week of Nov. 30 and students who switch will begin their new models on Dec. 7.

Planning continues for Phase 2 in-person implementation for special education students, as district officials go over scheduling and transportation issues. Staff are also working to meet the mental health needs of students, following up with families and providing communication and educational sessions, along with appropriate referrals.

COVID-19 Dashboard

New COVID-19 Dashboard figures are out. The district has a total of two active positive cases for both staff and students.

Active positive cases are defined as those of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are still within the required isolation period. The active student cases identified “are only reflective of students who have some form of in-person instruction or school sponsored activity involvement,” according to the Dashboard.

There are 10 active quarantines currently for staff, along with 36 for students. Active quarantines may result from being identified as a close contact, experiencing symptoms, or other scenarios identified by Public Health.

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