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District discusses issues with new track surface, approves budget

The Hiawatha School Board met Monday night and among discussion items was issues with bubbles forming in the surface of the new track at the high school stadium.

The board met at the Hiawatha Middle School library and the meeting was aired via Zoom conference and YouTube, with the link published on the district’s Facebook page and in the agenda.

The track was resurfaced in the summer of 2018 at a cost of around $900,000. Bubbles have formed in several areas — some disappeared as concrete under the surface settled, but a few remain.

Chris Morey, district maintenance coordinator, told the board Monday night that he had been in contact with the contractors who installed the new track and they felt the issue was due to drainage.

Morey said that the previous track had a small concrete curbing along the north side — or close to where the visitor’s seating is located and that kept water from draining onto the track. When the new track was installed, the curbing was not included and so water comes down the hill and drains onto the track.

“They are willing to fix the bubbles, but want us to address the drainage issue,” Morey said.

Morey advised the board that he could contact a contractor to get bids on installing curbing along the north side to prevent water drainage. He said small equipment would need to be used so as to not tear up the area. He said he also had discussed with Maple Wood Lawn — who cares for the football field — to adjust the nozzles from irrigation of the field so water does not just settle on the track. He said the irrigation is set for a half inch of water twice a week.

Morey said he would have someone take a look at the track and determine timeline and costs for fixing it.

In other district facility news, the board discussed the elementary school parking lot. Morey told board members that no bids for concrete work came in to meet the school’s timeline. He said he could look into ordering forms for the parking, but recommended pushing back the remainder of the project to next summer. The county was also unable to complete a chip and seal on the parking lot due to staffing issues, he said. Board members agreed that pushing back the remainder of the project until later next spring might be the best solution.

Morey also informed the board that some of the ordered supplies for disinfecting once school was back in session had arrived, but some items were on back order, including backpack sprayers for disinfectant. He said the sprayers were up to 3 months out for delivery and told the board he had reached out to another company, who said a month to 6 weeks for delivery. Custodial staff is also working on protocol for cleaning buildings every 2-3 hours.

In other business:

Following a public hearing, the school board approved the 2020-21 budget for $17.291 million with a tax rate of 48.353 — slightly down from last year’s mil levy of 49.475, as valuation within the county has increased.

The budget for the 2019-20 academic year was $16.173 million.

An increase in state aid led to an increase in the General Fund, Supplemental General Fund, and At-Risk Funding. The district saw an increase in federal funds due to the CARES Act for COVID-19 relief and related expenses.

However, Superintendent Lonnie Moser said that due to concerns with COVID-19 that enrollment was not something that could be counted on as some families may choose their own home school curriculum and funding could become an issue, depending upon final enrollment numbers.

The board approved a revised calendar that included adding 5 minutes to every school day and taking away a Sept. 21 professional development day to be a student day. He said very limited snow days were built in, but with plans for remote learning available this year that would make snow days less necessary. Moser said this would enable the school year to end prior to Memorial Day and still meet state guidelines.

As part of the Consent Agenda, the School Board approved to extend the contract of Jean Brintnall as Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Coordinator for the 2020-21 school year; approve funding four units for Parents as Teachers at a cost of $19,500; accept the resignation of Kelsey Hubin as HHS assistant volleyball coach and accept the retirement resignation of Laura Coulter after 13 years in the district; approve the hiring of Megan Green as district Health Assistant, Andy Runer as Science Olympiad co-sponsor, Whitlea Simmons as HMS assistant volleyball coach, Kelsey Hubin as girls tennis coach, Nicki Mathewson as HHS assistant volleyball coach and Kylah Bateman as sophomore class sponsor; approve Remote Learning 2020-21 assurances with KSDE.

The board has set a special meeting for 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 24. This meeting will be at the Hiawatha Middle School Library and aired via Zoom and YoutTube.


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Former Hiawatha man being held in Alaska on Brown County 'sexual exploitation of a child' charges

A former Hiawatha man is being held in Alaska on a felony Brown County warrant charging him with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child.

Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill sent a press release Wednesday afternoon stating that Kekoa Fujimori, 24, formerly of Hiawatha, was arrested by the Juneau Police Department in Juneau, Alaska Tuesday night on the Brown County warrant.

Hill said that in late May 2020, the Hiawatha Police Department received information pertaining to an electronically facilitated crime in Hiawatha.

“An Inquisition (a procedure in Kansas were a county attorney can file pleadings in District Court wherein subpoenas can be issued and witnesses can be called for discovery purposes) was opened by the Brown County Attorney’s Office and numerous subpoenas for information and documents were submitted to mobile and internet providers with the assistance of the Hiawatha Police Department,” Hill said in his news release.

The Hiawatha Police Department, with the assistance of the Brown County Attorney, then applied for and obtained a search warrant for digital evidence. On June 13, the Hiawatha Police Department, with the assistance of Brown County Sheriff deputies, served a search warrant at a residence located in Hiawatha.

Officers with Kansas Highway Patrol Troop N and the U.S. Secret Service assisted the mobile forensics unit of the Hiawatha Police Department in analyzing a large amount of digital evidence from digital media seized in the search warrant. Hill said, following their analysis, a criminal complaint was filed in the District Court of Brown County, charging Fujimori with three felony counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Child.

Hill said at this time, Fujimori is contesting extradition back to the State of Kansas and the Brown County Attorney’s Office has begun the process for extraditing him to the State of Kansas from the State of Alaska. He is currently being held on a $100,000 bond at Lemon Creek Correctional in Alaska.

Hill said Fujimori was previously employed by Brown County Special Education Interlocal 615, working at the Hiawatha Elementary School as a Special Education paraprofessional.

“However, law enforcement officials indicate that their investigation has not revealed any students being the victim of any charged offenses at this time,” Hill said.

Both the Hiawatha Police Department and the Brown County Attorney’s Office are members of the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force based in Wichita.


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County finalizes votes at Monday's commission meeting

Primary election votes were finalized Monday morning at the Brown County Commission meeting.

The commissioners went into a special canvassing session during their regular meeting to review a total of 44 provisional ballots. As County Clerk Melissa Gormley explained, provisional ballots come from changes in address, name changes or changes in party affiliation that were not done prior to the deadline.

There was one ballot dismissed where a voter had voted twice — the first time with an Advanced Ballot and the second time at the poll. The first ballot was accepted, however the ballot at the poll was not. Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill said he would forward the information to the Brown County Sheriff to investigate as a possible “election crime.”

Following dismissal of 30 of the ballots, 14 total provisional ballots were counted. In local contested races, the following had additional votes from provisional ballots:

Sheriff:

Incumbent John Merchant — 7 provisional for a total of 1,474.

Dennis Entrikin — 4 provisional votes for a total of 760.

Treasurer:

Betty “BJ” Spiker- 5 provisional votes for a total of 1,336

Anne Olson — 5 provisional votes for a total of 798

District 3 Commissioner:

Incumbent Dwight Kruse — 0 provisional votes for a total of 292

William Pollock — 2 provisional votes for a total of 319

Gormley reported there was a tie for the position of Republican Mission Precinct Treasurer within the county. The names drawn were as follows: Alan Yaussi and Tom Lockwood. Alan Yaussi won the coin toss.

Gormley reported a 43.57 percent voter turnout for Brown County, including the provisional ballots. The commissioners voted to accept the Election Audit Report and the Primary Election canvass.

According to the vote — the county will see new commissioners in January as Pollock narrowly beat incumbent Dwight Kruse. Also running unopposed is Lamar Shoemaker for the position of Commissioner District 2 — the seat currently held by Keith Olsen, who did not file for re-election.

In uncontested races, Dawn M. Boyles brought in 1,851 votes for County Clerk, Nellie Brockhoff 1,928 for Register of Deeds, District 22 Judge John Weingart 1,955 and Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill 1,730.

In other business:

Also at Monday’s regular commission meeting, Brown County Emergency manager Don Pounds was available via phone conference. He discussed with the commission several Direct Aid reimbursements from the Spark Fund. Pounds told the commissioners that the funds will not be disbursed until each organization or business provided their signed plan back to the county by Sept. 13.

The total of reimbursements for Direct Aid was $1.594 million to the following entities:

Morrill Public Library: $18,000 (sneeze guards, sanitizers)

Horton Library: $9,000 (sneeze guards, sanitizers)

South Brown County USD 430: $329,700

City of Horton: $28,853.06

Hiawatha USD 415: $355,400

Gencle Sprayers & Chemical: $166,230

Brown County Computer Department: $2,245-mobile video conference setup; $6,281-remote Desktop server; $11,843.37-7 HP notebook computers; $1,370-ThermoVu; $16,320-wages for nurse through December 2020.

Emergency Management: $100,000-PPE, 9 CAPR, medical supplies

Wisdom CPA: $5,000-SPARK admin costs

Health Department: $7,591-vaccine fridge/freezer; $3,874-EMR/CureMD; $30,135-Cepheld COVID test machine; $77,000-Cepheld testing supplies; $2,500-medical supplies; $3,318.89- $3,318.89-Vericooler; $40,000-wages Aug-Dec (add nurse); $1,599.96-Microsoft tablets (2); $1,370-ThermoVu; $747.24-SensaPhone

Town & Country EMS: $17,650-Ivent e700-patient ventilator2; $999-Ivent carrying case 2; $1,395-Ivent Circut 10/care 5; $165,000-Phillips Tempus Pro Monitor for vital signs, defibrilation, prehospital sonogram and video intubation system with telemedicine capability; $13,500-Defib Tech-The arm CPR

KANZA Mental Health: $3,619.95-disinfectant sprayer/solution

Horton Meat Processing: $75,000-expand meat production

Kooser General Store: $99,109.08-expand meat production

In other business:

Brown County Attorney Kevin Hill gave an update on courts, telling the commissioners that bench trials have been occurring but they have to wait for permission from the Kansas Supreme Court before holding jury trials. He said Child in Need of Care hearings have been held via Zoom, which is quite a length process to get set up for all of the parties involved in each case, but necessary due to the number of people who would attend a hearing. He told the commissioners he felt it continued to be helpful to have the nurse monitoring the main entrance to the courthouse as they recently had someone try to come for a court hearing who was positive COVID-19. That person was turned away at the door and not allowed in.

The commission approved to accept the Cereal malt Beverage License for Casino White cloud.

The commissioners reviewed an agreement from Jackson County for disposal of hazardous waste. The commissioners will revisit the issue next week, after speaking to Charlie Brockhoff and George Bruning.

In a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5, the commissioners reviewed two requests for qualifications for the sheriff’s HVAC system. Energy Solutions Professionals and Wildan Performance Solutions were the two companies. The commission voted to accept the proposal from Energy Solutions Professionals.


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County Commission approves 2021 budget

The Brown County Commission voted in the 2021 budget of $11,240,285, following a public hearing at 9 a.m. Monday morning.

Commissioner Dwight Kruse said there were some decreases in the next year’s budget and the mil levy — 31.038 — was slightly lower than for 2020. Valuation within the county increased from $198,178,198 to an estimated $206,318,835 for 2021.

One decrease in the budget was Road & Bridge Department, which is at $3.6 million — down about $50,000 — and the Miscellaneous Account was dropped. Sheriff’s Department/dispatch saw some increase, which Kruse said was normal. Employee benefits amounted to $1.65 million — up from $1.59 million in 2020 — and the General Fund came in at $3,845 million.


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Masks to be worn in Hiawatha schools

Hiawatha students and teachers will be wearing masks when they return to the classroom in September.

Mask protocol was detailed in the Hiawatha USD 415’s “Return to Learn” plan, which was approved at Monday night’s meeting. Following a lengthy discussion on several of the provisions in the plan, the board cast a unanimous vote to approve it.

According to the plan, all students, adults and anyone else visiting the facilities in the district are required to wear a mask if over the age of 3. Superintendent Lonnie Moser said there will be some exceptions to the rule and if health conditions prevent a person from wearing a mask, those situations will come under consideration as well.

Moser said he is asking for the input of the teachers and administration teams to come up with protocol on “mask breaks” — essentially times when masks can be taken off during situations of social distancing at 6 feet or more. He said this provision is better for the teachers and administration to determine, as they are in each individual building and know the situation in the classroom and each class’s schedule best.

Hiawatha healthcare providers, Jodi Twombly, Danielle Jagels and Hiawatha Community Hospital CEO John Broberg were special guests at the meeting and provided input on not only wearing masks, but considerations for sports with practices starting Aug. 17, as approved by the Kansas State High School Activities Association.

Twombly told school board members that providers have made the decision they will not be writing excuses for students to exempt them from wearing a mask.

Wearing masks in public places — especially schools — has been a hot topic from the state to local public officials. While the governor mandated masks in public, Legislatures over rode Gov. Kelly’s decision and left it in the hands of local governments. While some counties voted in mask mandates, Brown County did not.

The state released a nearly 1,100 page document Navigating Changes for the upcoming school year and masks were a huge proponent in this document. The Brown County Commission voted to let local school boards make decisions on whether masks were required in school. At that meeting, Superintendent Lonnie Moser told county commissioners that USD 415 intended to follow the governor’s guidelines.

Local school districts in Nemaha County and South Brown County have “recommended” the usage of masks only. At the county meeting last week, USD 430 board president Jason Selland said their board wanted the authority to make that decision.

The board members also agreed that the mask mandate within the schools will be revisited on a monthly basis and decisions will be made based on recommendations from local health officials. So far the county numbers of COVID-19 cases (44 positive at the time of the meeting) have remained fairly low, however Broberg said the rate of increase has seen dramatic inclines in the past couple of months — compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

Twombly and Jagels served on the school district’s Health and Wellness Task Force and made several recommendations about wearing masks, classrooms, sports and more. There was some discussions about band and choir — which most recommendations are to sing and use instruments in areas only where students can be spread out, primarily outside. Some instruments may not be able to be used due to increased saliva secretions.

While KSHSAA approved practices to begin Aug. 17 as usual, there are still many concerns about specific sports. Twombly said football and basketball were “higher risk” sports, while volleyball would be a moderate risk sport. She said individualized, low-contact sports such as cross country, track and tennis would be considered low-risk sports. There was some discussion about whether specific sports would require masks, but that could be an issue with labored breathing.

Board members agreed they wanted sports and Twombly said she agreed too, however felt that people in general turned a “blind eye” toward the sports, including her own family, who she admitted had participated in some intramural activities over the summer. She said, however, if all of the students and faculty do what’s required and stay safe in the classroom and then go out to tackle each other on the football field, then what’s that accomplish?

Moser said he has noticed colleges starting to drop fall sports — either completely or move to the spring — and felt that the writing was on the wall for KSHSAA to do the same.

“We start practice the 17th and will revisit on the 24th,” he said.

No determination on specific sports was made at Monday’s meeting and Moser advised the group that the Big Seven League would be meeting this week for discussions and hoped more information would become available by Aug. 24, which is when the board will hold a special meeting that morning at 7 a.m. Moser recommended the board meet every two weeks to keep up on the situation, as it could change dramatically.

Other discussion centered on enrollment and the three phases of the Return to Learn plan. Moser, along with Brintnall, administration and school leadership teams have devised a plan that offers on-site learning, a hybrid model and a total remote learning. Students were offered a choice of on-site or remote. The hybrid model would be determined by school officials, based on health issues concerning the COVID-19 coronavirus and recommendations by local health officials. It would include a partial on-site/remote learning option and Moser said they would try to keep all family members on the same rotation for convenience.

Moser said he and the team felt confident they have come up with a model that would allow for phases to be transitioned into smoothly if the conditions warrant it. While students can change enrollment within the first week of school — to go remote or on-site — the district feels that following that first week that changes following need to be made at quarter or semester, depending upon each individual situation.

Moser told the board members there are around 60 students that had thus far chosen remote learning as of current enrollment numbers. He said if students choose the district’s online curriculum, then they are still considered an “enrolled student,” which is what state aid is based upon. However, if families choose their own “home school curriculum,” then they are not considered enrolled students. Moser said his staff would be touching base with each of the families to make these determinations soon and advised that as the situation continues enrollment numbers and specific dollars from state aid would not necessarily remain secure, leading to some “real budget problems in the future.”

The school district has been working on obtaining supplies for all classrooms, including disinfecting wipes and spray, along with masks and other materials. Thermal cameras to record temperature will be installed and everyone will have their temperature taken twice daily and also prior to loading a bus. While some supplies have arrived, other supplies are on back order. Moser said they have enough cloth masks to provide two for every student and faculty members. They also have a supply of 10,000 3-ply masks to use if necessary.

Students will be asked to provide their own masks if possible, with frequent changing and washing as the need arises.

“We aren’t going for a sterile environment, but going for a block of those secretions,” Twombly said.

Twombly and Jagels were wearing masks at the meeting and she pointed out they were Level 3 Hospital grade masks, which can be worn 2-3 weeks before disposing of. A cloth mask — which she said is most likely what the students will be wearing — can be worn 2-3 times before being laundered. If the mask becomes soiled, then it will need laundered before that. She said masks are never to be turned inside out and worn.

There was some discussion about contact tracing and situations that would involve quarantining of staff and students, despite a negative tests. All would depend upon proximity to the infected person.

Moser also discussed breakfast and lunch situations — noting that at the middle and high schools outdoor lunchrooms would be served if weather allowed. Other options include utilizing classrooms and he said they have added additional lunch times to spread out students within the commons/lunch areas.

Moser also noted that if the district has to utilize the hybrid phase for a combination of remote and on-site learning, then lunches will be packed up for delivery and pick-up again.

In addition to approving the Return to Learn plan, the board approved a motion that if the teacher’s contract year extends beyond the current approved 189 days that they would be paid daily based on that contract.

The board has a special meeting set for 7 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 24 to determine which plan the district will proceed with — on-site, remote or a hybrid model. The meeting is being aired over YouTube via Zoom conference and parents can tune in by clicking on the link provided on the district’s Facebook page. To view Monday night’s meeting go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN1w_ZFe1YUtqqoDPKA4PDA or you may go to www.hiawathaschools.org.