Just days before holding an in-person graduation ceremony for its Class of 2020, the Wilber-Clatonia School Board moved forward with plans to start the 2020-21 academic school year with all students studying throughout the building — kindergarten through seniors.
Spread across multiple tables and at least six feet apart from each other, all board members were present at the July 20 meeting for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset. That was over four months ago. Board member Tim Reichers’ words on reopening echoed throughout the open commons' space where the meeting took place.
“We've got to get our school going and do what we have to do to keep it going,” Reichers said.
The majority of the hour-long board meeting consisted of discussion and action on various COVID-related issues that could alter classes during the school year.
Superintendent Ray Collins introduced an altered school schedule that would require faculty to arrive on Thursday, Aug. 14, which he said would help them get up to speed on the remote learning possibilities that may be needed. This same plan, which was passed unanimously, schedules students to arrive on Monday, Aug. 17, for three straight days of 1 p.m. dismissals.
Continuing to hold in-person classes, at least at its targeted population, would be a fluid situation, Collins said. He told the board that he’s continuing to consider multiple expert opinions when recommending or deciding health measures for the school. Public Health Solutions, the health department in Saline County, announced plans to implement a risk dial but it wasn’t yet operational by the time Collins spoke at the board meeting. He also said that he’d take outside factors — like a potential COVID-19 outbreak in nearby Hebron, in Thayer County, for example — into consideration. Another potential outbreak at the Smithfield Foods plant between Wilber and Crete, also could cause concern.
Collins reiterated the infrastructure and faculty at WC. New laptops were purchased for students and should arrive in early August, just in time for every student from third grade and beyond to use their own laptops. Collins also reported Elaine Burda, WC’s head cook, regularly made 350 hot meals per day during the spring. After speaking with Burda, Collins told the board that the school’s food service department wants to continue to feed students.
Other logistical measures were discussed, like holding three different lunch periods to limit students in the cafeteria to 105. Staggered open houses were also plotted out for parents and students to visit this year’s classrooms before the school year begins.
Other votes and discussions
Three members of the WC student council made a presentation to allow all WC students to attend extracurricular activities for free, unless they are district or conference tournament games. That would do away with family passes and require only a $6 adult fee and $4 for other students. WC student IDs would work the same as a student pass. The board passed that unanimously.
Additional agenda items included hiring four new faculty members. Angela Sears was hired as a local substitute and Kimber Beeman, Geena Bloom and Tiffany Haugen were all hired as paraeducators. Board member Robert Sykes said that the school is still looking for at least two more paraeducators.
The board also unanimously voted to install new Kidwell speakers in the commons area that could amplify the gym’s audio into the public halls or function independently for different activities.
Board members also voted to update Perry Law policies. Those 11 items were updated by majority vote with board member Gary Wooten dissenting.
While no vote was held, the board discussed possibly inviting a lawyer to board meetings. The discussion referenced the recent lawsuit by Wooten against the other members of the school board. That lawsuit was ultimately settled. Sykes acknowledged the discussion was needed after one board member suggested tabling the prospect of getting a lawyer until after the election in November.
The board discussed when it would receive its updated budget, which would likely require a special meeting in September.
The WC school board is scheduled to meet next on Aug. 17, the evening after students first return to classes in the building.