“No one is going to jail if we have a homecoming parade on campus,” said resident Janie Grunwald, urging board members to reconsider the parade. She said she was “really struggling” with what she saw as inconsistencies in how the district was handling the COVID-19 situation going from allowing a graduation ceremony to be held on August 8 to canceling the homecoming parade now.
She called on the district to “work a little more and try a little harder” to allow as many of the normal activities to take place as normal. “I am challenging us to think outside the box,” she said.
John Kuhn spoke out questioning the district’s handling of the student quarantines wanting to know if the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regarding contract tracing and quarantines were simply recommendations or laws. He said he wanted answers to how many of the 91 staff and students who were quarantined at the start of the school year became infected, how many of those ended up hospitalized and if any of those died. He also questioned if any spouses or family members of those quarantined got sick.
“My guess is it is zero, zero, zero, zero,” he said.
“I think the community needs to understand what the true numbers were,” he said adding that the students were “suffering” because of the actions being taken by the school for the quarantines.
Parent Rhonda Seidl called on the board to find a way to hold the parade on school grounds. She also questioned why teachers were quarantined citing the rules for essential workers such as health care workers which say no quarantine unless they are showing symptoms. “Why isn’t my kid’s learning and knowledge considered essential?” she asked.
“You don’t want to take too much away from the kids,” said parent Tony Studinger, calling on the district to find a way to make it happen. Residents Susie Doberstein and Barb Krug also called on the district to reconsider its stance on the parade.
Following the public comment period of the meeting, board members and administration took up the discussion of the issues raised including the changes to homecoming.
“We get criticized a lot,” said district administrator Pat Sullivan, noting that in making the decision to not have a parade on campus they looked at the risks involved. He estimated they would have 600 elementary school students out watching it, 200-300 middle school students whose parents would sign them out and bring them, about 200 high school students who would be leaving since they had no interest in the parade, and community members. Sullivan said the hope is to hold off on a parade now and instead do a real parade downtown in winter or spring when the restrictions might ease.
County public health director Patty Krug addressed the parents and school board members urging them to put their concerns into perspective. “We all have a social responsibility,” she said.
She explained her staff’s roll in making the calls and doing the contact tracing and placing people who meet the condition of being within six feet of an individual who tested positive for more than 15 minutes cumulative over the course of a day. She said before school started the health department met with all the county schools and reviewed the process so everyone knew what was to be expected.
She also reminded the people at the meeting that the health department staff are people who live in the community and who face the same choices and same hardships as everyone else. She noted that missing two weeks of school is far better than getting a career-ending injury
resilient and stand up.”
or having a child diagnosed with cancer. “We have dealt with all these hardships,” she said, noting there is a staff member who has not been able to be with her husband in five months because of COVID-19 and others that have faced hardships. “You have to remember we face the same life choices as anyone else,” she said.
Krug also walked the board through the contact tracing rules and when people would have to be quarantined. She said while masks are helpful they are not 100% foolproof and their use would not prevent someone from being quarantined.
Board member Dede Strama questioned if it is possible to spread students in the schools out and utilize other spaces to allow for them to be six feet apart.
“Social distancing in a school with 600 kids is not possible. It ain’t happening there is going to be close contact,” said Al Leonard, Medford Area Middle School principal. He reported the middle school had 40 students learning remotely and four students are on quarantine.
High school principal Jill Lybert said the quarantined students were expected back this week at the high school and that there were 160 students learning remotely. She said it is a challenge to keep students apart and maintaining social distancing. “It is like herding cats,” she said. In regard to using alternative spaces, Lybert said that the high school just does not have those spaces available Elementary principal Dan Miller reported that there were 39 students learning remotely and one to two other students that were quarantined for non-school exposure.
School board president Dave Fleegel noted that while there have been students and staff placed on quarantine, Medford is in better shape than other districts which have had to close due to COVID-19 cases.
As far as the question of if students who are placed under quarantine are required to abide by it by law, Krug said that if someone violated quarantine her department would be talking to the county’s attorney to determine options that exist. From the school’s perspective any student or staff member placed on quarantine will not be able to return to school until after they are released from quarantine.
In the discussion over the homecoming changes, the board was in agreement to follow what the student government and administration proposed with the activities at the school and not try to hold a parade at this time with the hopes of being able to do something more in winter or spring.
In other business, board members:
_ Approved applying for a waiver to the number of minutes of instruction and for a portion of the Educator Effectiveness requirements. Sullivan explained that the waiver for the instruction time was to cover the district’s bases if they had to have a closure due to COVID-19. He said he felt they had well more than the required minutes of instruction, but wanted to make sure the district was covered. As far as the Educator Effectiveness, it would allow teachers to not have to do a portion where they are required to prepare a written report. “I don’t understand why the teachers should get a pass,” Grunwald said during the public hearing on the waiver. She said now would be the time to see different goals being generated. “I think this is a great time to challenge teachers to work harder and be resilient and stand up.”
Grunwald’s comments drew a strong reaction from Dittrich who is a former student. She noted that many teachers are putting in a lot of extra hours and are missing time with their families in order to deal with the added work and stress of this school year. She said there is a lot of work teachers do that people are not aware of.
Board member Brian Hallgren agreed with Dittrich and praised the work being done by the teachers. “They are pushing to the limit,” he said, noting that he supported anything to make it easier for teachers this year.
_ Approved a new transportation contract with Krug Bus Service. The major change to the contract includes language requiring the district to continue to pay the bus company if school is canceled by state or other action such as last spring’s closure for more than two months. Previously the district was only obligated to pay for days the school canceled, such as normal snow days. Under terms of the contract, the district will pay the company $2,300 per day for the first 30 days of a closure and $1,500 per day for any days after 30 to the scheduled end of the school year. It was noted that regardless of if school was in session, the company has ongoing expenses to make sure the school buses are ready to provide transport for students when they are needed. Board members unanimously approved the contract with the change.
think this is a great time to challenge teachers to work harder and be
— Janie Grunwald speaking against a waiver request to exempt a portion of the requirements for the Educator Effectiveness rules due to additional workloads from COVID-19..