Board Meeting in Review – October 12, 2020

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The regular meeting was held starting at 6:30 p.m.

Superintendent Denney recognized our building principals, Joe Ayers, Denise Bergstrom, and Isaac Cottrell, for Michigan School Principals Month.

A student council report was submitted by our 2020-21 Student Council Board Representative, Lauren Hassenzahl.  She updated the board on student council activities, such as the election of student council members and plans for Homecoming and Spirit Week.

Public Comment – None.

The board approved the first reading of NEOLA Vol. 35, No. 1 policy updates and the Resolution to Grant Emergency Powers to the Superintendent During the 2020-21 School Year.

Superintendent Denney presented the board with a student enrollment update.  We had a total of 1073 students on count day, which is down from 1137.43 students last October.  Our budget was based on 1110 students, however, because of the way student enrollment is being calculated this year due to COVID, the district will see a gain of about $330,000 more than if it was calculated the way it has been in the past.

The recent MDHHS orders that were put into place after the Michigan Supreme Court ruling voided most of the Executive Orders that were currently in effect, has put back just about everything we were doing.  Some of the changes that are now in effect include wearing of masks at schools for all grades and limitations on the size of gatherings and events.  The requirement for organized sports include athletes wearing a face covering, a prohibition of concessions at indoor events, social distancing, and gathering limits.  The high school gym capacity would be limited to 164 persons, the middle school gym would be limited to 108 persons, and the football stadium would be limited to 542-607 persons, depending on the size of the seats allowed.  Schools also have the option to enforce the two-guests-per-athlete limit they have been following.  These orders will be in effect until at least October 30th.

Under current law, every school district must have their board of education review and reapprove their Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan.  Each board is required to go through a series of steps each month, make any necessary changes to their plan, share 2-way interaction rate percentages, listen to public comment on the plan, and then take action to either approve the plan as is or approve the plan with changes.  After review and discussion, board approved to continue the current Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan as is.

Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan Public Comment:

An elementary teacher commented on behalf of elementary teachers that:

  • Elementary students have done a remarkable job wearing face masks all day, especially after not having to wear them while contained in the classroom in the beginning of the school year.
  • She is super proud of the staff.  Every day is overwhelming and hard.  We have an amazing staff.

Another elementary teacher commented that:

  • She has three online students who will be returning for face-to-face instruction.  Will there be classroom devices for those students?
  • It’s a lot for teachers who may have just 1-2 or a few virtual students in their class to have to do double the work to accommodate face-to-face students as well as virtual.
  • Teachers appreciate having Wednesdays without students.
  • Elementary students are doing a good job wearing masks.

A high school teacher commented that:

  • Teachers are concerned about the possibility of burnout due to the stress of doing two jobs, teaching in person and online.  There is more stress this year than ever before.
  • Teachers would like to focus on the goal of teaching either in person or online, but not both.
  • It takes so much time to teach all day and then convert to an online format, most teachers are behind on other things, especially grading.
  • There are some challenges teaching online students such as tests (cheating is a real issue), grades are often inaccurate, lower grades than in-person students, grading takes 3x longer than grading in person or on paper, and little real teacher-student connection.
  • Some things that will need to be figured out right away are how conferences will be handled, as well as the procedures for exams.
  • We need to consider possible solutions, such as ways to do online separate from in person.
  • Suggest creating a schedule in order to double, triple, or quadruple our capacity to allow students to take classes on Edgenuity without increasing the cost.
  • Some solutions won’t help, such as new curriculum or substitutes to free up some time.
  • Some staff never wanted to teach online, but would prefer, if given the choice, to teach 100% online because it would be more manageable, more fair, and less stressful.

The board approved the Annual Summer Tax Resolution for 2021.  This resolution is approved annually in order to work with the townships in collecting the district’s portion of the summer taxes.

Superintendent Denney reported to the board members on the following:

  • A big thank you to teachers and staff who are doing everything they possibly can to make this school year happen.  Everyone is sincerely appreciated.
  • Special thanks to the building principals in honor of Michigan Principals Month.
  • Introduced Ashlee Trombley, 5th grade teacher, and Sue Michalsky, the ISD business services person who will be taking over for Adrienne Spencer.

The board members commented on the following:

  • The board reiterated how awesome they think our teachers are and they appreciate them very much for making a difficult situation a little less difficult, and understand all the things they’re going through for the love of the kids.  They understand that everyone is experiencing stress over the increased workload.
  • The board would like to make every attempt to get all students back to in person learning.
  • Please pass on any suggestions for little things that people can do to help.
  • Administrators and board members have been working hard behind the scenes to make improvements and they are always willing to listen to suggestions.
  • There have been a lot of positive comments from the community.
  • The board will not have to do Superintendent Denney’s evaluation this year, since he received a “Highly Effective” evaluation for each of the past three years.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:23 p.m.

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