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Winter sports practices approved

The Stratford Board of Education voted Nov. 16 to let middle school winter sports teams begin practicing in school gyms.

Stratford School District residents Tom Seubert, Melanie Fecker and Travis Skroch spoke at the meeting in favor of the school board allowing youth sports teams to use the school gyms. Scott Winch, Stratford schools superintendent, recommended the school board first allow youth sports teams to begin practicing in the school gyms on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, but Skroch argued for Tuesday, Dec. 1, instead.

Skroch said the Stratford Boys Hoops Club is required to pay its league tournament over $1,000 in dues in early December. He said Stratford Boys Hoops Club would only be able to recoup half of its cost in tournament dues after it pays them should it find out the middle school boys basketball seasons are cancelled.

“We are in a spot where if we wait much longer we’ll need to shut down the middle school boy’s basketball season,” Skroch said. School board members listened to school district residents’ concerns and voted 5-0 to let middle school winter sports teams start practicing in the school gyms.

Winch said Stratford Elementary School’s student cohorts are working to avoid the spread of COVID-19. No elementary school sports will be offered until possibly March in between the Wisconsin In­terscholastic Athletic Association’s high school winter and spring sports seasons.

In other school news:

_ The Stratford school board mulled whether it should switch to recommending, instead of requiring, students and staff to wear masks inside the school buildings. Gov. Tony Evers made the decision for the school board on Friday by extending a mask mandate that requires people to wear masks inside buildings until Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021.

Gov. Evers’ extension of the statewide mask mandate also overrules the Stratford school board’s policy to not require student athletes to wear masks while playing sports. The school board, however, decided to allow teachers and athletic team coaches to temporarily remove their masks while they are instructing so their voices can be heard.

_ The school board supports reducing or eliminating the school district’s 14-day quarantine for students and staff who are deemed close contacts of students and staff who test positive for COVID-19.

Chris Dickinson, school board vice president, said the school district has had only 41 total positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff this school year, yet more than 400 students and staff total have been quarantined for 14 days because they were close contacts with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. He said this large number of students and staff quarantined from school has resulted in significant educational and attendance problems.

The school board directed Winch to contact the school district’s lawyer and insurance company on this issue. Both advise the school board not to reduce or eliminate the 14-day quarantine for students and staff who’ve had close contact with someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19.

_ School board members voted to pay school district support staff two thirds of their pay when they are out of work because of COVID-19 and they have no paid federal leave days remaining.

_ The school board voted to continue only sending students home from school who have multiple COVID-19 related symptoms. The school board plans to discuss its reopening protocols and educational plan for the second semester at its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 14.

_ School board members voted to make the last Wednesday of each month full days off, in order to give teachers more prep time for providing virtual learning to students.