Rib Lake school board mandates masks until further notice
Students and staff at Rib Lake School District will be wearing masks for the foreseeable future.
At the Nov. 12 school board meeting, board president Steve Martin made the motion to require the masks until further notice rather than bringing it back each month.
“Nobody speaks up for personal freedom more than I do,” Martin said, however he was concerned about the potential liability for the district and everyone involved if someone got ill because of masks not being worn. He noted that if the situation changed they could always stop the requirement.
Board member Rollie Thums voted against the motion.
Elementary principal Jon Dallmann said the only concern he had with the mask order was in the prekindergarten classes. The masks are required for any students age five or older. Dallmann said the students have trouble with the ones turning five needing to start wearing a mask when others of their classmates are not wearing them.
The decision came after the school board reviewed the absentee numbers due to COVID-19 as well as the students at each grade level on virtual options either due to choice or being quarantined. District administrator Rick Cardey noted that in the future the district would look to rely on the Rural Virtual Academy for providing online instruction rather than asking classroom teachers to do both online and in person learning. “I think we are taxing our teacher to do both,” Cardey said, adding that he knows a lot of their staff are working outside the school day to make things work.
He said he would support the RVA expanding its enrollment options in order to accommodate all the virtual students.
According to Dallman, the breakdown of virtual students right now in the district is: PreK five students; kindergarten five students first grade six students; second grade five students; third grade two students; fourth grade four students, fifth grade three students, sixth grade three students, seventh grade four students, eighth grade one student, ninth grade one student, 10th grade three students, 11th grade two students and 12th grade three students.
The district received word that the free school lunch program for all district students will continue through the end of the end of June. The district is reimbursed for the meals served so will not lose any money from the program.
Cardey noted that since March the district has served 40,000 free meals.
“For some kids that is the best meal of the day,” Cardey said of young people in poor socioeconomic conditions who rely on school lunches for nutritional needs.
In other business, board members:
_ Were cautioned to expect an increase in health insurance costs. The district is part of the multi-school Central Wisconsin Health Consortium which contracts for health insurance coverage as a group. The current contract is up in June 2021 and the consortium will be bidding out for options. “We owe it to the taxpayers to see what we can get,” Cardey said. A driving factor on rates will be the usage ratio, as a whole the consortium was at 102% loss ratio. Cardey noted that if Rib Lake had been on its own, its loss ratio would have been 151% noting the district benefits from being part of the consortium. He said another factor that will impact rates will be the impact of COVID-19 and the number of hospitalizations. Cardey noted the average intensive care stay is $100,000.
_ Approved the outright purchase of a new Ferris 3300 lawnmower from Tri-County Equipment in Withee for an outright price of $12,995. Selling points were a 72-inch cutting width, heavy duty spring suspension and 41 horsepower motor. Repairs for the district’s existing Kubota mower have been getting costly with the district recently paying $2,500 for a repair to it. “We can’t keep sticking money in this stuff,” Martin said. Cardey will pursue selling the current mower with the hope to receive $3,500 for it.
_ Received word that Jodie Radtke had applied for and received 80% grant funding for a new kiln in the middle school. Cardey said the current kiln is on its last legs and the grant helped greatly with replacing it. He said it will take some masonry work to install the kiln and vent it to the outside.
_ Approved altering the contracts for Paul Yanko to take over all the athletic director duties from Mike Wudi beginning with the winter season. Cardey noted the district has been fortunate to have Wudi serve in that capacity, but noted that with his plans to retire they needed to look to the future. There had been a transition plan in place for the change.
_ Received a report on the timber sale in the school forest. The district received $20,000 in stumpage revenue from the selective cut. Dallmann noted that there was more that was harvested then they had thought, but overall they were pleased with the result. The money from the timber sale will be used to improve educational use of the school forest. Thums, a longtime advocate for outdoor education, praised the crew that did the logging work and looked forward to what they would be able to get done with the money. “I might even see the bog walk before I die,” Thums joked, referring to a long-range project to install a walk through the low-lying areas so that students can learn about the bog ecosystems. “Children like to be outside and they learn outside,” Thums said.