Rib Lake School Board seeks a return to more normal school year
At Thursday’s meeting, the Rib Lake school board looked at what the next school year would look like and discussed the preparations that need to be made to ensure a successful academic year.
During his administrators report, District Administrator Rick Cardey, talked to the board about the health protocols the district is planning to have for the 2021-22 school year.
“Our intention is to get back to being more normal, if you came to summer school, it was much more normal,” said Cardey. “We let parents come in with the kids. We had kids doing a lot of collaborative things.” After discussion with the Taylor County Health Department, Cardey proposed that the board approve a plan in case there would be a COVID-19 outbreak in the Rib Lake schools and community. “I want to start normal, but I want to be ready,” said Board President Stacy Tlusty.
The health protocols stated that if 10% of the student population in any one of the buildings tests positive for COVID-19, then the school would implement restrictive protocols. These protocols would also be put in place if the county’s positivity rate reached 20% or higher and the cases are close to the Rib Lake area. Some of these procedures would include assigned seating on buses, strongly encouraged social distancing in the classrooms, and not allowing parents and guests into the school buildings.
If the school were to reach either the 10% or 20% markers, the school wouldn’t shut down, but instead follow the planned protocols and procedures for a full two weeks for the positivity rates to fall back down. If the positivity rates stay below those percentages, then the school year will go ahead as it did before the pandemic. “We need to get back to teaching students. We need to have interaction. We need to have close interaction because that’s how they learn,” said board member Rollie Thums.
One of the questions was possibily requiring face masks if health protocols were imposed. During the citizen’s input, two parents of Rib Lake students came to the board to talk about the mask mandate question.
Mindy Martin has four children currently enrolled in the Rib Lake schools. She came to the board to express some concerns she had about the upcoming school year. “We don’t know how things can change as we go, but I’m going to ask you to consider to not mandating masking or COVID vaccines to students and staff. But to keep that optional based on the individuals personal convictions, health concerns, and personal research,” said Martin.
Kerra Abeln, another Rib Lake parent, shared a similar concern. She talked about how last school year, masks in the schools were required due to a state mandate. “However, when the governor’s powers were removed, yours remained. Despite there being no legal basis for continuing to require masks, your mandate governed our kids,” said Abeln.
She explained that while she understood the board’s decision, she felt it didn’t help as students didn’t wear masks outside of school. Similar to Martin, Abeln asked that the school doesn’t make any mask mandates or vaccine requirements and leave those choices up to the students and their parents. She listed a number of requests, including in-person parent-teacher conferences and that parents and guests be allowed back into the buildings.
During the discussion, Cardey called the county nurse liaison to answer any questions about quarantining students. She explained that the county is responsible for quarantining people and not the school. One thing that was figured out was that any students in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be quarantined, regardless of whether they were wearing a mask for not. However, if that student is vaccinated, they will not have to quarantine. “I guess with the mask situation to me, whether they wear a mask or not they have to quarantine,” said board member Nicole Glenzer. “So what’s the point of wearing a mask?”
The board voted to make masks optional at all times, even if the positivity rates are higher than 10% in the schools and 20% in the county.
When Martin was talking about future COVID-19 protocols during the citizen’s input, she also brought forth certain ideologies that she said her and other parents are concerned about entering their children’s learning environment. Some of the ideas she talked about were Critical Race Theory, an academic movement that seeks to critically examine the country’s law as it intersects with issues of race in the United States, and terms such as systemic racism, anti-racism, and social justice. Along with this, she also expressed concern about George Floyd’s birthday being set as a “day of action” that would take place in October, which is a highly politicized event, according to Martin.
“Comprehensive Sex Education is another ideology or class that I’m concerned about where right now, I’m watching different states where they are changing it from what was considered facts-based sex education to rights-based sex education,” said Martin. Lastly, Martin expressed concerns with LGBTQ education mandates that she said is becoming a part of certain subjects in school and the 1619 project, an initiative that aims for reframing the country’s history by focusing on the consequences of slavery. “These young minds, especially thinking of my children and those here, are not mature enough to handle any sort of teachings like that here at these ages. All I’m asking, is that the school board would just keep careful watch so that our students are not being influenced politically or indoctrinated, or told what to think, but instead that they would be cultivated and spurred in on how to think,” said Martin.
In other business, the board decided to stop using Zoom to stream board meetings. They also approved the July board bills which amounted to $120,803.13.
Kirsten Budimlija, the middle and high schools principal, said that they are in summer mode, preparing for the upcoming school year.
The board also approved a family medical leave request and an increase of the hourly wage for the food service coordinator, bookkeeper, and educational interpreter not covered by the support staff wage scale.
For facilities and maintenance, Cardey explained that they have been busy in the last month. “A lot of these upgrades have been out of the budget. I’ve seen some schools go to referendum, but we’ve been able to do things out of the budget to keep us moving along,” said Cardey.
Cardey also talked about the COVID relief fund that the school will have available to them. From the federal government, the school will have $900,000 available to them over the course of the next three years. “I want to be very transparent with that money. I also want to be very intentional with that money,” said Cardey.
Cardey listed the goals for the district to reach using the fund money. Some of which included NWEA testing, family outreach and involvement nights, a school nurse contract, textbooks, and cleaning and disinfectant supplies. He’d also like to upgrade and buy new tech ed and shop equipment, as well as curriculum development support and many other improvements to the district.
Cardey also talked about using the fund to bring internet connections to students that don’t have internet capabilities at home by buying hotspots and internet boosters that students would be able to check out from the schools. “I want us to be in a better position for the future when we are done with [this fund] because we’ve done some good things with it that are going to set us up for the next five to ten years,” said Cardey. The board approved all of the COVID relief fund goals.
The board also did a first reading for changes for the 2021-22 student handbook and the community fund 80. Changes focusd on adding more explicit explanation and clarification throughout the handbook. The board also gave Cardey permission to solicit temporary borrowing.