The summer construction projects at Poynette High School are moving along, getting closer to the finishing dates. Updates were provided to the school board at a July 19 meeting.

Demolition of the 1963 bathrooms at PHS is complete and construction to renovate the areas is underway. District Administrator Matt Shappell said that all work is expected to be done by the second week of August. There are three classrooms being renovated at the high school. Shappell said that the work in those areas is almost done.

Also, there are 10 classrooms at the middle school being renovated. Those are taking a little longer than anticipated because there was 3/4-inch carpet glued on the floors that “slowed things down a little bit,” according to Shappell. He added that everything “is starting to come together” with all the summer construction and said that all the indoor and outdoor furniture for the schools should be coming by the second or third week of August.

The pool at the high school has been open for the past month after construction. “Things have been going well,” said Randy Tomlinson, school board clerk, who also sits on the facilities committee for the district.

Tomlinson also said the district wanted to improve the warning track around the junior varsity baseball diamond at the high school, to go along with other field updates, but the cost estimate is around $18,000-$20,000. Tomlinson said that the project will be “on pause” for now, but the district will continue to try and address the issue in the near future.

Policy modifications

The board approved several modifications to the employee handbook. Of the bigger changes noted by Shappell, one was to update the starting salaries of various positions and a few other minor changes. Shappell also noted that there will be an added avenue for professional development for all support staff.

“It’s an incentive to attract and maintain employees, as well as recognize all the hard work being done for our kids,” Shappell said.

Modifications of the district’s eSchool policy were also approved. Shappell said that the policy won’t call it “eSchool”, but rather be “JEDI centric,” to address what it’s about, how to apply, and more.

Students will be able to mix-and-match in person and virtual courses, but on a very limited basis. Shappell gave examples of a full-time JEDI student that will still be able to take band in person, and other similar district classes. Also, students who are in person full time can still take a JEDI course or two if a similar one is not offered at his/her school — Shappell noted that taking an American Sign Language class on JEDI is one of those examples.

High school students who choose the JEDI program must still meet all normal district requirements for graduation.

Personnel update

The only hiring that the board needed to approve at the July 19 meeting was for Katie Kooistra, a new middle school science teacher.

The district currently has has seven open positions — two full-time custodians, a third grade teacher, and elementary/middle school physical education teacher, an elementary/middle school assistant principal, a PHS assistant cross country coach, and a seventh grade volleyball coach.

Community Forum

During the community forum portion of the meeting, one mother spoke out against Critical Race Theory being taught at the Poynette schools.

She objected to the “racist teachings” and did not want to “pit black versus white.” The mother wasn’t opposed to having kids learn about slavery at all, but not in the CRT fashion. She felt learning about those topics of history are important so that future generations don’t repeat certain aspects of history.

She noted that her young daughter called her to take her home one day, not because she was sick, but later told her mother that she felt uncomfortable with what was being taught in a class. The mother said the children were reading a book about a poem that mentioned the Blacks Lives Matter movement, which seemed to insinuate that all police officers are racist and kill black people. The daughter was upset because two of her family members are police officers.

The mother said that CRT painted “a broad brush” on the overall topic. She concluded by saying that a strong focus should also be placed on math, science and reading among all levels of the district.

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