Three positive COVID-19 cases occurring concurrently in one of the Waterloo schools will not be cause for closing the building and shifting to all virtual instruction. The board voted 6-1 in favor of removing the three case threshold effective immediately with board member Kate Lewandowski voting no.
Superintendent Brian Henning at the March 7 board meeting said other districts in Jefferson County have removed the three case limit in determining building closure.
Henning said the district would still have students and staff quarantine for 14 days if they are in close contact with someone who was diagnosed with coronavirus and ask anyone who tests positive to isolate for 10 days. During this time, students would still be asked to attend classes remotely through a technology device.
“We still have some conservative measures in place, but to the best of my knowledge all of the Jefferson County schools have now removed that three case limit so they can have some more stability for their parents on when school will be in session,” the superintendent said.
The district would still send notifications to families about positive COVID-19 cases in the building.
He also mentioned to the best of his knowledge 90 of the 130 staff members were receiving the COVID-19 vaccine with 20 scheduled to receive a shot two days after the meeting.
Board President Matt Schneider said administration would still have the ability to close buildings and have all students receive remote instruction for instances such as staff shortages or a large number of cases.
Lewandowski expressed concerns about a potential spike after spring break, set for March 29 through April 5, similar to what was expected after winter break, due to families possibly traveling. She suggested the three case limit stay in place until after spring break.
“The staff might be vaccinated, but we know there’s no vaccination for kids yet and the data shows us that children 10 and up spread COVID-19 just like adults do,” she said. “I’m not completely against this but I think there’s a lot of factors that we should be talking about before just jumping into a vote.”
Board Vice President Nancy Thompson inquired what would be the downside of not removing the three case limit. Henning said the drawback would be families continuing to live “day by day and week by week … wondering when the building their child is in is going to reach three cases and then all of a sudden have to scramble to find babysitters. It would give a little bit more stability to students’ lives and families’ lives.”
Homework Club attendance credit
High school students who are grade deficient will have the ability to earn a .25 elective credit for attending the Homework Club, which is offered to students in grades 5-12 and started a few weeks ago. The students must attend 30 of the remaining 36 hours offered of Homework Club to receive the credit.
High school guidance counselor Tyler Kopplin said the recommendation comes due to the number of students failing classes at a higher than normal rate. According to him, 23 freshmen, 13 sophomores and 11 juniors have failed one or more classes so far this school year.
“Kids this year are facing more barriers this year than past years from virtual learning to losing Wednesdays when they don’t really have direct instruction, COVID,” he said.
The guidance counselor said offering credit for attending Homework Club is another tool the school has to ensure the students are staying on top of their graduation requirements.
Offering Homework Club credit is just one of the steps the high school has been taking to decrease the number of students failing one or more classes. Kopplin said open campus has been revoked for pupils who have a grade of D+ or lower, teachers can request to see specific students during WEBS time, and increased weekly communication with parents whose children are struggling in class.
Other board news:
• Approved nine high school students’ requests to take part in early credit courses for the 2021-2022 school year. All of the requests are for taking a 3-credit CNA class at Madison College.
• Approved a change in assignment for Erika Ellerie. She has been employed full-time in the district for the past two years with 50% of her time as a school psychologist and 50% of the time as a paraprofessional support person. Ellerie will now be the school psychologist for 100% of her employment in the district. The district has not had a full-time school psychologist for 15 years.
• Approved hiring seven paid spring athletic coaches in addition to hiring Ashley Batz, Tyra Ringenberg and Sean Gillett as lifeguards/fitness center attendants.
• Approved the resignations of middle school counselor Christina Mabra effective June 4 and pupil services administrative assistant Hayley Gunderson.
• Approved the annual CESA 5 contract for the 2021-2022 school year. According to the board informer packet, there is a $33,000 cost increase mostly associated with occupational therapy services. Waterloo is a member of CESA 2 but contracts with CESA 5 for many services not offered by CESA 2.