On Monday night, the Abbotsford ….
On Monday night, the Abbotsford School Board finalized the district’s reopening schedule for the upcoming school year, electing to have in-person school four days a week, with the school complex closed on Wednesdays so it can be deep-cleaned by custodial staff.
During cleaning days, teachers will connect with students virtually and host online lessons. An all-virtual option will also be available to students who prefer not to attend school in the buildings.
The board was in consensus that the modified, slightly blended schedule is the best option available right now.
Superintendent Sherry Baker noted that if things go smoothly and a COVID- 19 outbreak is avoided, returning to a five day, in-person schedule is possible for the near future.
“That is our goal,” she said. “If we see things turning on the risk evaluator... and we’re getting really good attendance, we will bring back an option for five days.” Abby
Baker went on to say the district will do everything it can to keep students in the building, but to reasonably and safely separate them. If successful, the five day option will be revisited, but Baker noted that a virus outbreak would take most possibilities off the table.
While the options for returning to school were generally well received, one matter met with slight backlash: The requirement to wear a face-mask while in the building.
Per Gov. Evers’ emergency order, masks will need to be worn by staff and students who are five years of age or older, although Baker said the district will accept medical exemptions from those who claim to be unable to wear one. Staff members not wanting to wear a mask will need to provide medical proof, but a doctor’s note will not be needed to prove a student’s inability to wear a mask.
Baker said they can’t reasonably demand everybody see a medical professional before attending school.
“Can I prevent a parent from lying just because they don’t want their kids to wear a mask? Absolutely not,” she said. “But our population can’t afford to take their kids to a doctor just so they can get a mask waiver.”
Some temporary exceptions apply to the mask mandate, such as when a teacher is up in front presenting to a class. However, when the teacher walks around the room and engages with students up close, they will need to once again don their mask.
While some mask exemptions may apply while in the school complex, no one will be exempt from wearing a mask during bus transit. Some parents said if their children are required to wear a mask on the bus, then they’ll refuse to allow them to take the bus.
“That’s OK, they can deliver their kids,” was Baker’s response to such comments. “If it is problematic for you to wear a mask and you can drop them off, that’s great. Do what you gotta do as a parent.”
Since masks will be, for the most part, mandatory to attend school, the district will be supplying each student with two washable cloth masks. Disposable masks will also be kept on hand for those who misplace or forget their mask at home.
If a student habitually shows up without a mask, the district will reach out to the parents and attempt to remedy the situation. If the student still refuses to comply with the mask mandate, punitive action may take place.
“If the student loses them or doesn’t bring them back, then the parents are responsible to make sure they have a mask,” Baker said.
Travel was looked at as another possible issue, since many Abbotsford staff members go on vacation over Christmas break, including several who visit Mexico. No restrictions were put into place regarding national or transnational travel, and anybody returning to Wisconsin from vacation will not have to quarantine for 14 days. Several other districts in Wisconsin have ruled that if a staff member leaves the state, they must quarantine before returning to work.
“The last thing I would want to tell my staff is ‘You’re not allowed to leave for vacation.’ I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole,” Baker said. “My recommendation is that we don’t require them to quarantine because that’s putting our students and everyone else in kind of a tough spot.”
Baker urged anybody who travels out of state to be upfront and honest with administrators, so the district can better keep tabs on who may be potentially infected. She said they should monitor their own symptoms and alert the district if they become symptomatic.
If a student or staff member does test positive for COVID-19, the individuals known to be in close contact with the individual for 15 minutes or more would be
FEMA grant update
Baker told the board that she has received two inquiries as to whether the district would consider naming rights for portions of a proposed storm shelter/ classroom addition in exchange for a sizable donation, in the range of $100,000.
No action was taken by the board on that idea.
The district has qualified for a matching FEMA grant worth over $2 million, with the funds intended for construction of a dome-shaped that could double as a storm shelter. The district is looking to contribute between $1.1 million to $1.2 million for its share of the project.
After a recent addition to its Fund 46, the district now has $819,384 available, putting district close to its goal, but those funds can’t be touched until the 2021-2022 school year.
_ Athletics will move forward as planned, although tournaments aren’t necessarily a priority for fall sports. Inside event attendance will likely be limited. Grade requirements will be deferred for the immediate fall grading period.
_ The board updated its Title IX policy regarding sex-based discrimination, in compliance with federal requirements.
_ The board withdrew $20,426 from the Carl B. Thompson Trust Fund to meet IRS requirements. The money will be put into Fund 46.
_ The board designated Forward Bank as the main depository for the district’s accounts for the next two years.
_ The board approved the hiring of Abigail Schreiner as an elementary bilingual teacher assistant, Sandra Galan as a middle and high school bilingual teacher assistant, and Ethan Kramas as middle school football coach.
_ The board accepted the resignations of school board member Jen Krebs, library aide Laura Garcia Torres, cook helper Maria Garcia, and assistant football coach Marty Schwantes.
To fill the vacancy left by Krebs, the district will be seeking out people who are interested in serving until at least the April 2021 election. The board plans on appointing a replacement at its next meeting on Sept. 21.