At the July Waterloo School Board meeting, it was determined that if 1% of the entire school population, which includes students and staff, were to have confirmed cases of coronavirus, the Waterloo school facilities would need to shut down for two weeks. Now, the district has changed the maximum number of positive cases from a percentage to three based on guidance by the Jefferson County Health Department.
District Superintendent Brian Henning offered this insight during Monday night’s board meeting. He said it is expected the state and county will soon be releasing health metrics that could impact school districts.
In an effort to follow the three-cases decision, the board discussed at what point it would inform families that the schools would shift to all virtual instruction. This topic had been approached during the July meeting. The previous discussion addressed whether administration should be continuously checking their email or voicemails if someone were to report a student or staff member had a confirmed case of the virus.
Instead, if the threshold of three COVID-19 cases were confirmed and reported during the school day, the district would send out communication to parents by 2 p.m. that the facilities would be closed for two weeks. It was believed this would allow families to arrange for possible child care needs while at the same time providing students the chance to gather any materials they would need before the end of the school day.
“I think it’s reasonable to close the schools at the end of the day if the threshold is met that morning,” said board President Matt Schneider.
Board member Kate Lewandowski believed the county set the number of cases before closing the school so low because not everyone who is diagnosed with coronavirus may report it to the school.
“I think they’re assuming if there’s three cases, there’s probably more,” she said.
Furthermore, Henning said the county guidelines note that if a student or staff member tests positive for the virus, the entire class will need to quarantine and take part in virtual learning for two weeks.
“It’s not necessarily good news, but it was the news that was given to us,” he said.
The board also determined how it would communicate information about coronavirus cases in the district. Families would be notified by the automated phone system by 2 p.m. if there were a confirmed case in the district. Information provided would be whether it was a student or staff member and what building they were in (elementary, middle/intermediate, or high school).
“I think ethically we have to do that,” said board Vice President Nancy Thompson. “If I were a parent, I would want to know.”
This measure was approved 4-3, with board members Thompson, Lewandowski and Deb Stein voting against the measure. The trio said they would prefer to supply what grade level the student attends or staff member teaches in communication to parents.
The board also:
• Was reminded the district has not canceled any of the fall sports and will continue to seek guidance from the WIAA. It was noted the WIAA and Capitol Conference organizations had meetings set for this week.
• Approved one-year leave of absences for kindergarten teacher Angela Larkins, middle school special education teacher Connie Dettmer, teachers aide Tammy Krueger, and teachers aide Elizabeth Frasier. The board had previously voted to allow staff to take a one-year unpaid leave of absence if desired due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Approved the resignation of pupil services/special education secretary Ashley Wegner, and the hiring of Hayley Gunderson for the pupil services/special education secretary and Dana Brown as the speech and language pathologist. The board also approved increasing technology coordinator and educator effectiveness coach Jen Mortensen to full-time hours.
• Approved teacher leadership and co-curricular advisor positions for the 2020-21 school year.