The Hiawatha School Board met in a special noon meeting on Tuesday to take action on resolutions needed for the district to proceed with the remainder of the academic year.
The meeting was at the Hiawatha Middle School library, with each of the board members, Board Clerk Sarah Windmeyer, Superintendent Lonnie Moser and District Maintenance Coordinator Matt Cluck all sitting at individual tables. Board members in attendance were Ian Schuetz, Keith Erdley, Dr. Pete Rosa’, Tom Simmer and John Wright. Jeff Brockhoff was on speaker phone and Amy Kopp was not in attendance.
Ten people were allowed in the library and the meeting was televised in the commons area for additional attendees.
With the governor’s action last week to close public school buildings through May 29, Kansas schools have been left with guidance by the Department of Education on how to finish out the school year with some education through what’s been referred to as Continuous Learning Plan.
The state has waived the requirement for the 1,116 hours needed for a school year, but each district must meet two conditions: 1-to develop and implement a Continuous Learning Plan and 2-each district must pay all staff as though school were still in session.
The Hiawatha School Board took a step in this direction by approving two resolutions on Tuesday – the first regarding wage payment to all district employees as if they were reporting to work. Moser said that teachers will be working – in a much different environment, some from the school’s classrooms, but many from home, to implement the Continuous Learning Plan. Classified – or hourly staff – has been called in for various duties – such as sorting and boxing up student belongings, custodial/maintenance and office duties.
Moser said the teachers will continue their duties through the end of the semester and hourly employees could continue to be on call, depending upon the needs of the district.
The second resolution approved was to suspend the district graduation requirements. Moser advised the board that this doesn’t mean seniors won’t be held accountable for required core credits, but that the state is giving districts leeway to determine graduation and whether a student has completed credits on a case-by-case basis.
Also required by the state is the district to approve the Continuous Learning Plan. Moser advised the board that teachers have already been in contact with students and education will resume March 30, with board approval of the Continuous Learning Plan coming later in the week at a special 7 a.m. meeting on Thursday, April 2.
Moser updated the board members on goings on within the district the past week or more. He said he has tried to keep in contact with patrons, parents and students with daily news sent via text and posted on the district’s Facebook site. In addition, he has provided daily videos to staff members to try and keep the lines of communication open. Moser credited the staff for stepping up to the plate and being resilient in these unknown times. He said many had launched into the Continuous Learning Programs early – reaching out to students and parents and trying to remain positive. He said he also noticed many reaching out on social media and noted there was a parade Sunday with teachers, parents and some students as vehicles circulated through the community to honk and wave at students and parents at home.
After nearly two weeks of extensive sanitizing by custodians, teachers were allowed back in the buildings on Monday to sort through student belongings and prepare them for pick-up. In addition, student iPads and Chromebooks were sent home to each to be used for the Continuous Learning Plan. Moser said those were checked out to each parent and if a parent for some reason refused it, then they weren’t sent home.
Moser said these are challenging times. Based on a survey of parents, the school officials better know the individual needs of families. Some don’t have access to internet and with the public library closed that leads to issues. However, he said the district has been working closely with Rainbow Communications and the company just announced more than 30 free hotspots in the local communities – including two in Hiawatha, along with others throughout the county. He said people will have to stay in their vehicles at the locations to access the hotspots, but said they could be used for sending emails and returning and downloading homework.
Throughout the week, school staff continued to sort through student belongings and those were sent home through a drive-thru pickup at each facility based on alphabetical order.
Board President Ian Schuetz credited Moser, administrators, teachers and staff for responding well in a volatile situation. He said he knew Moser was putting in long days and nights on the job and felt his leadership and daily updates provided an anchor point for what’s going on.
“People need to realize the burden on teachers it is to recreate learning in this short of a time,” Schuetz said.
Moser added that he appreciated everyone’s flexibility, and knows there are a lot of questions. He advised parents to address each of their respective building principals for information, or go to the district’s Facebook site, where updates are posted daily.
In other business:
• The board approved the hiring of Mikaela Lehew as third grade teacher and Carl Parman for high school physical education.
• Board members completed a facility tour following the meeting and reviewed a proposed three-year Capital Improvements Plan.