Parents who are looking to get their child tested for COVID-19 could soon have an option of getting a test by stopping by a district facility. The Lake Mills School Board voted at its Monday night meeting to pursue serving as a host site for testing through a third-party vendor.
Superintendent Tonya Olson said the testing would be drive-thru style and no one would need to enter the building. The testing would be available for students as well as their parents; she was unsure if it would be open to the entire community.
The administrator said the district would be able to decide what days and times the testing would be conducted. She recommended the testing be conducted after school Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
As of Monday night, Olson had not yet met with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) or the vendor since she wanted to wait until the board took action. More concrete details on the days, times and location of the tests will be available once Olson meets with the parties.
“Testing is certainly a component to the safety of our students and staff,” said board President Bob Dimperio.
Olson and school nurse Toni Zastrow had initially been hesitant to pursue having Lake Mills serve as a host site for COVID-19 testing. The superintendent thought it would meant the district would have to test students “which I was not in favor of and Toni was not in favor of for a couple of different reasons. I didn’t want to put Toni in that position.”
Furthermore, Olson said Zastrow did not have the time to “get into the COVID testing business.”
However, during the month of August, Olson saw how families in the school district struggled to get an appointment at a COVID testing site.
“At the beginning of the year we’re asking parents, ‘Maybe just get a COVID test to rule it out,’” the superintendent said. “And that’s easier said than done. It’s not like you can go to Walgreens and in 24 hours you have the test results.”
She also pointed out the local Walgreens’ testing equipment is currently out of service.
Additionally, Olson said it could be difficult for someone who is sick or has a sick child to drive to Fort Atkinson or Madison to get tested.
After looking into the program more closely, she learned the district could be partnered with an off-site vendor who would do all of the work and the school building would simply serve as a host site for that vendor.
“They do all of the work at no cost,” Olson said. “This way if parents think their child has COVID, they wont’ have to jump through so many hoops to get tested. It is, I think, a little bit of peace of mind to rule that out.”
Return to in-person learning plan approved
The board also approved the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan. Olson said this was similar to the “very specific” L-Cat Pandemic Plan that was put into place for the 2020-21 school year.
Part of the updates are the amended quarantine policies; students who are identified as close contacts of a peer who tests positive for COVID-19 will not need to quarantine but parents will be notified. Olson said the DHS had changed the definition of close contacts based on whether individuals are wearing masks or not. If the student who has COVID-19 and their classmates are wearing masks, close contact is anyone within 3-feet of the individual. In the case no face coverings are present, a close contact is considered anyone who is within 6-feet of another person.
There were also some minor changes to operations such as students again using silverwear and not plastic utensils for lunch and having families call the student attendence line if their child has COVID-19 instead of calling the COVID-19 hotline.
One of the reasons for the updated plan was to be eligible for the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) III funds. While the exact specifications for receiving the third round of funds has not yet been revealed, Olson does believe the district will need to show at least 50% of last school year’s instruction time was face-to-face and academic support and social-emotional plans.
Masks dominate public comment
Eight people spoke during public input, with an even split on those who support mask choice and mask requirements. The people who spoke about mask choice talked about the negative health impacts masking had on their children while those with the opposite opinion said universal masking kept students and staff safe.
One person against universal masking pointed out students and staff are only required to wear face coverings during school hours; they can be in district facilities before and after school – including athletic practices and contests and co-curricular meetings – without masks.
Olson said athletic and recreation plans had been created before the district voted on masking and noted the practice was only for the regular school hours.
Board Treasurer Brianna Behselich said, unlike attending school, taking part in sports and other curricular activities are optional and families can weigh the risks and make the decision on if students should take part in those activities.
“Our job as a board is really to look at this for our schools and what our kids are doing during the day and how it effects them and what it means for keeping them all safe,” she said. “I think there is a difference, but your also telling us there should be some options.
“We’re doing the best we can and what we are presented with and what we feel is best for the kids,” Behselich said. “I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like I’ve won any conversation; I wake up knowing and hearing your stories and how that’s effecting your children.
“I understand you are feeling the way that your’re feeling but when I have to take into consideration all of the children, there’s a piece there that has to make a decision but also know there is a heavy heart knowing how that hurts and affects other,” the board member said. “I want you to know this isn’t an easy job for us and we don’t take this lightly.”