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Cadott School Board; Administration uses data to decide learning format

By Julia Wolf

The Cadott School Board discussed how decisions on the instructional format will be made, and who will make those decisions, during a Committee of the Whole meeting, Dec. 28.

District administrator Jenny Starck said students will be invited to come to the school Wednesday afternoons, starting after the winter break, for some focus learning and time to use the internet. The Wednesday time is a supplement to the hybrid learning system currently in place, because of COVID- 19, where the student body is split into two groups that alternate between in-person and online learning.

Starck asked the board for either board action on the next step, or board action on what the metric should be to determine when to bring students back for more in-person learning.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is, we can transition to four days face-to-face, starting with the elementary,” said Starck.

She says there has been positive news, in terms of county COVID-19 numbers, as well as the addition of communitylevel data.

“There’s strong parent feedback, they want kids in school five days a week,” said Starck. “There is also some feedback, though, around stability.”

Starck said her suggestion is having 4K through sixth grade return to four days a week, in-person, beginning Monday, Jan. 11, to give everyone time to prepare. From there, she suggested monitoring the numbers and consider expanding to the secondary level.

Board member Becca Blanchette asked the reasoning behind bringing students back four days per week, instead of five. Starck says the time gives teachers time to connect with students learning online or in quarantine.

Al Sonnentag, board member, noted, in his conversations with parents, some students who didn’t struggle in school, previously, are now. He says he thinks they need to get back to five days a week in-person, for all students, as soon as possible.

Starck says they are trying to avoid knee-jerk decisions and says, if they go bolder and bring more students back to in-person learning faster, they risk having to back up.

The board members also discussed how they were giving mixed messages, about whether the board or the administration should make decisions about the instructional format.

Mark Schley, board member, says he agrees with Sonnentag, that students should be brought back to in-person learning as quickly as possible. He says his thoughts are not just because of academics, but also low-income lunch offerings and other student supports.

“Either we’re going to make these decisions, regardless of what they are, or we have to support her (Starck) on whatever decision she makes,” said Schley.

Donna Albarado, board member, also agreed that it is not fair to the parents when they bounce back and forth.

“I’m more than willing to let Jenny (Starck) make the decision and I will support her, even if I don’t agree,” said Albarado.

Schley also said he would like for kids to come back, but would support Starck’s decision-making.

Board members voted in favor of allowing the superintendent to use data to make changes to the instructional format.

Members also voted to extend the leave options originally offered as part of the Families First Coronovirus Relief Act (FFCRA), through June 30, 2021.

Starck said the paid sick leave options in the FFCRA were not extended at the federal level. The leave provided additional paid leave for those in quarantine, sick or caring for someone who is, or who lost child care. The extension would not reset the benefits, so if a staff member already used the leave, they would not get more.

Ryan Beachem, director of building and grounds, talked about some remodeling ideas he has in mind, based on input from the general public and things that need doing.

The areas he has in mind for updates include the gym – replacing the bleachers, floor and air handling units. Beachem says he would also like to see the bathrooms at the end of the commons re-done.

“The remodeling that I want to do requires an engineer, because it has to be approved by the state,” said Beachem.

He said he is looking to move forward and get some prices for stuff. Beachem also says it costs money to get the plans drawn up, which is necessary for official bids. However, he says he does have unofficial estimates for the projects.

“I’m trying to plan for this summer,” said Beachem.

Starck says one thing they have discussed, is waiting for more input from the community, especially to weigh the benefi ts of upgrades to the current building vs. a new building.

Rod Tegels, board president, suggested the issue be sent to the strategic planning meetings, so the community can define the framework of the project. Others agreed and board members requested Beachem round up a “wish list” of projects to be brought to the strategic planning meetings.