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now, but other overnight trips ….

now, but other overnight trips …. now, but other overnight trips ….

now, but other overnight trips for sports tournaments have been canceled.

Given the growing number of COVID-19 cases, Sullivan said he had put the word out in the district that planned overnight trips to compete in sports tournaments over the Christmas break were canceled as well as the baseball and softball teams’ trips to play in Florida at Spring break.

Fleegel brought the decision to the full board saying he wanted to have a discussion on it so that everyone was aware of the decision and could weigh in on it. Typically overnight travel is approved as a routine consent agenda item.

According to Spanish teacher Sarah Hamland, the Ecuador trip had originally been scheduled for last June and had been postponed due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. She said if it was canceled by the district, the participants would lose about $850 of the $2,400 they have paid toward the trip. The Peru trip participants would each lose the $450 deposit they paid if that trip was canceled by the district.

The trips are arranged through a company that specializes in overseas student educational travel. There are five students going on the Ecuador trip and four signed up for the Peru trip. Deml said the difference he saw between allowing these trips versus the others is that they are during the summer. He said the students would need to be quarantined before returning to the school buildings noting this is less of an issue in June and July than it is during the school year.

Fleegel was concerned about pushing too many things off hoping things would return to normal in the future. “There is no guarantee it will be any better than it is today,” Fleegel said, supporting the needs for “carrots” such as these trips that give students things to look forward to. “We have to start finding a way to slowly move forward,” he said, noting that he did not see any green light approaching.

Coach Justin Hraby said the major reason for cancelling the spring baseball and softball trips had more to do with the WIAA pushing back the start of the spring season by a month. This would limit the teams’ ability to play any games while in Florida, which was the intent of the trip in the first place.

Despite a lengthy discussion, members took no action to override Sullivan’s directive and approved the Ecuador and Peru trips with the note that the re-imposition of travel restrictions at the national level could change that.

In a related matter, board members agreed with Sullivan about the need to cancel non-school related use of the district buildings for events including youth and booster club tournaments, archery tournaments, the quilt shows and other activities over concern that such activities could become super spreader events. District finance director Audra Brooks noted that the district’s insurance providers specifically raised caution over hosting youth sports tournaments where many other schools will come here.

In other business board members:

_ Approved personnel measures aimed at keeping teachers and other staff in the buildings. The first is a change to allow staff members to accumulate additional personal days beyond the current maximum of five for teachers and three for support staff. Staff members receive two personal days per year. Because of the shortage of substitutes, the district administrative team proposed the change encouraging staff not to take the days now and instead bank them for next year when it is hoped things will be back to normal.

The second change was to allow COVID-19 as reason for staff being able to donate unused sick leave time to fellow employees. The current program allows employees to donate sick time for a limited number of circumstances involving long-term medical needs. Sullivan said there is staff in the district who are facing having no paid time available due to COVID-19 and if these people got sick, Sullivan said the district would have to tell them that while they would have a job when they returned, they would not have any paycheck until they got back to work. Board members agreed to allow staff members to donate their sick time to other employees in the case of COVID-19.

A third proposal to potentially offer childcare for the children of district staff members in the event of a shutdown, met with support from board members and will continue to be developed by administration. The idea was raised here after staff members saw other area schools doing it. The concept is that the teachers would report to their classrooms and do online instruction from there while aides and other support staff oversee children in their virtual learning in other parts of the building. This would allow the aides a way to continue to get paid, while keeping teachers focused on teaching. While supportive of the idea Fleegel and other board members were equally adamant about the need to keep the schools open and running five days a week as long as possible.

Board members also approved giving Sullivan the authority to call off school on December 21 and 22 similar to his authority to call snow days, if it is warranted due to the number of staff or students that would make instruction a challenge due to absences. Sullivan said he may not need to do it and hopes that they would not have to, but wanted the option if they saw a spike in the school to get them over the hump and into the Christmas break.

_ Approved renewing the contract with the Medford Area Youth Hockey Association for the rental of the Simek Center for the boys and girls hockey programs at $30,000 for the coming year. While typically this is a three-year contract, Sullivan said the plan is to sit down and rewrite it this coming summer. A major change to the contract this year was that rather than paying a lump sum amount, the rental will be paid monthly with the provision that if the season is cancelled early the district would only pay for the time used.

_ Discussed the status of the Rural Virtual Academy. The RVA is a virtual charter school operated by the Medford school district. According to RVA administrator Charlie Heckel, it has about 1,500 students, however would be easily over 3,000 students with the number currently on the waiting list. Fleegel raised concerns about the RVA growing larger than its parent school district in enrollment and the impact this has on the district as a whole; in particular its impact on the district’s fund balance percentage given its budgetary growth. As a whole, the RVA is a revenue generator for the school district with Medford receiving a portion of state aids for per pupil and open enrollment students as well as being able to utilize the RVA and its staff as educational resources for the district. This has been particularly helpful in regard to traditional classroom teachers having access and training on virtual learning technology.

_ Approved striking a policy setting the wages of substitute support staff positions. Sullivan had come to the policy committee earlier in November asking for the rate in the policy to be increased to the starting wage of full-time support staff. He said this was necessary because market conditions for employment in the area made it difficult for the district to get subs at the rate they were paying. Rather than adjusting the rate, Hallgren called on it to be removed from policy entirely to allow administration the flexibility to react to conditions in the marketplace. It was noted that if board members disagreed with the wage set, it would be reported in the monthly personnel report with the option for the board to take action at that time.