The Hiawatha School Board met for its first regular meeting of the new year Monday night, when they heard COVID updates from the school nurses and also voted to change meeting times for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Head district nurse Erin Wenger and HES nurse Heather Gildersleeve updated the board on COVID-19 protocol that had changed just that day.
Wenger told board members that the most recent protocol if someone tested positive with COVID or was a family contact to quarantine days 1-5 and they could return to the school setting on days 6-10 as long as no symptoms with a mask RECOMMENDED. She said as of Monday afternoon, that protocol changed to MASK REQUIRED on days 6-10.
There was discussion among board members of how to enforce this and the protocol that was decided upon was that Wenger would send out emails to all staff of the students on the COVID list and detail who was to wear masks through which specific dates.
Superintendent Lonnie Moser said if students refused to wear masks, then staff could contact administration and if there was an issue then the student would potentially have to quarantine the remainder of the 10 days.
Board members agreed this was an effort to keep kids in school. This protocol is also in effect for those vaccinated, who contract COVID. Wenger reminded that if a person was eligible for a booster and had not gotten it yet, then they were not exempt from quarantine if had a direct exposure.
Wenger also told board members that rapid tests were coming back quickly, but tests sent to KDHE had a 3-5 turn-around time.
As of Monday, Wenger reported there were three student and one staff positives in the district. According to the school website on Wednesday afternoon, that number had risen to 10 students and 2 staff members.
She also advised that the county had added 30 new cases just that day. The county Health Department posts their numbers on Friday. As of Friday the 7th, there were 67 active cases and 6 hospitalized.
In other business:
After much discussion, the board voted to change the monthly meeting time to 6:30 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. through the remainder of the fiscal year — which is through June — in an effort to have meetings convene earlier.
The board heard an update on the Teammates Mentor program from HMS counselor Kim Krauter and teammates mentor Morgan Pralle. Krauter told the board that the program had kicked off in November and there are currently 13 mentors matched with students participating in the program. She said the mentors meet with the students for 30 minutes a week during school hours in the library and that she is in need of additional mentors to match with the number of students interested.
Krauter said the program was supposed to launch 2 years ago, but COVID put it on the back burner. She said it was exciting to see the reaction of the students to the relationships being built with an adult who cares for them. She encouraged board members to get involved in the program.
“The hope is to make a long-term commitment for kids,” Krauter said.
Pralle told board members she enjoyed visiting with her student and felt the experience gave a lot back to her and she could see it was a benefit for the student. Anyone interested in participating in the program can contact her at the middle school at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the program to www.teammates.com.
The board recognized staff members Jeanie Wege-ag teacher, Amanda Hinton-HHS secretary, Kathy Kliewer-library/tutor/yearbook and Kathy Lindstrom-business with certificates of recognition based on recommendations from students or patrons.
The School Board voted to approve the Consent Agenda which included the resignations of custodian Shane Flowers, bus driver and cook Julie Johansen, HES counselor Shelby Smith, HHS softball coach Kelsey Johansen, custodian Samantha Reynolds, HES secretary Mychi Miller and HES para Ariel Blanton.
In Moser’s superintendent report, he advised of new board member training Feb. 23 in the evening, along with a facility tour that day as well.
He discussed that he would be meeting with the Teacher’s Association to discuss calendars for the next academic year. Board President Tom Simmer expressed concern that the HHS graduation had fallen on the same dates as some college graduations in recent years and that forced families to choose if they had children also graduating from college. Moser said it was too early out to see when colleges had graduations scheduled and the only way to get away from possibly having a conflict would be to have USD 415 graduation on a weeknight. Other board members discussed having the graduation a little later in the month — such as the Sunday prior to Memorial Weekend — to alleviate that.
It was also discussed to keep the March meeting scheduled as normal, although it is spring break.
Superintendent Moser also updated the board on the return to the classroom after break, noting that Jordan and Nick Haedt had sponsored a pancake feed and flowers for each teacher. He said many teachers were back in the schools on Monday and Tuesday was a professional development day.
In a facilities tour update, District Maintenance Director Chris Morey told board members the recent snow removal had gone fine and he had ordered a snow blower to help get sidewalk areas not accessible by the tractor. He mentioned that Aller LLC had returned to move a large pile of snow that was blocking a sidewalk at the end of the bus lane at the elementary school.
Morey also gave updates on HVAC issues, noting that the control units will be replaced soon, but said some parts were still 4-6 weeks out. He said one pod was down at the HHS, but back-up units were providing heat. He also updated the board on improvements that are to be made to the greenhouse in the spring.
After discussion, the board appointed Roni Tietjens and Jacqueline Kerl to the Special Education Interlocal Board. Current member Jeff Brockhoff agreed to extend his term for one year.
The board voted to approve the resolution stating that officer elections would be held in June.
Following an Executive Session on non-elected personnel, the board voted to extend the contract of Superintendent Moser through the 2022-23 school year, approved 6-0 with board member Jacque Kerl not in attendance.
Following an Executive Session on negotiations, the board voted to approve an MOU for teachers to be paid $30 an hour if they are asked to substitute for another absent teacher while on their plan period. It is necessary to have teachers cover for each other due to the shortage of subs.
District patrons Virgil Hallauer and Larry Stover addressed the board during public comment time.