The school board held its regularly scheduled meeting on October 25th. The video is available on Youtube and the agenda is available on Board Docs.
The student representative’s report mentioned the fall festivals and other activities, but largely focused on conversations with Superintendent Marseille. They discussed changes to transportation to make it feel safer and met with the student council. She mentioned that while the entryway improvements to the high school are nice, other parts of the facility, most notably the trailers are not of the same quality.
In the superintendent report, he reviewed the community conversations held this month. He said he was troubled that some in the community felt like outsiders and that their views aren’t welcome.
They showed the calendar of upcoming committee meetings. The educational affairs committee is meeting Nov. 4th to discuss next year’s calendars and federal programs. On Dec. 1st, they will again meet to discuss the school calendar and start times. Facilities and finance committees will meet on Nov. 17th and Dec 15th, but no agenda was mentioned. The policy committee will start soon but as both of its normally scheduled meetings would occur right before holidays they are working on rescheduling it.
There is a 3 hour early dismissal this Friday for K-8 students (its a normal day for the high school). On Nov. 2nd, Election Day, there is no school for students.
The district presented the Test to Stay program adopted by other nearby school districts.
First they presented statistics, which have largely remained unchanged. Case rates, positivity, vaccinations and other indicators are barely changing. Student vaccination rates for those grades 7-12 remain between 54 and 73%, still far too low for herd immunity.
Springfield pharmacy is offering flu shots to staff on October 29th. They have also tentatively scheduled Covid vaccination clinics for age 5-11 students on Nov. 29, Dec 20th, and Jan 12th should the vaccine be approved.
They presented Covid numbers from the schools. While only 19 students and 3 adults at SHHS have tested positive for Covid, 293 students – 23.8% of the school – have had to quarantine as close contacts. SHMS has had zero student cases, but the elementary schools also have high numbers of students that have had to quarantine.
The test to stay program is recommended by the CDC and would allow these students to remain in-person at schools. Asymptomatic close contacts would need to test negative 3 times over the course of 7 days. This program would be voluntary – students can choose to quarantine or remain in school through the test to stay program. The rapid test would be self-administered or with the help of school nurses in a drive-thru line at the high school in front of the gym. High school students would be 6:45-7:10 am, middle school would be 7:10-7:35 am, and elementary students 7:35-8:15 am on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Students would need to test negative three times in a row to remain in school. The presentation wasn’t clear on how athletics are affected by this program.
In closing, the district nurse stated that because last year’s flu season was mild, its expected this year’s will be much more severe, so get your flu shot, practice flu etiquette and wash your hands. Chester County has recommendations for safe Halloween, but I didn’t immediately find them.
The board asked several questions, mostly details. The tests will be provided at no cost by CHOP policy lab and the district’s main cost is the nursing staff’s time. If additional hours are needed, the school can use ARP funds to cover it. In response to another question, they hope to start this plan on Nov. 1st, although oddly, the board didn’t actually take any action on this presentation.
The board’s regular business largely passed without comment, but there was some discussion of the Open Sky Contract for solar panels on the Panther Pit. The panels are being funded by contributions from the WSSD foundation, but if there are any extra unforeseen costs, it will be the district’s responsibility to pay them.
One comment about items on the agenda was about the difficulty of testing and determining symptoms in young children. The culture wars then came to WSSD. A parent complained about two books by LGBT authors of color in the school library. Several parents responded with support for LGBT students. Another parent discussed issues with the school menu and the difficultly in assessing what’s in them in response to student’s allergies, religious requirements and vegan/vegetarianism. Another parent claimed the district was not allowing her child with a mask exemption in school but then continued with anti-masking misinformation.
The superintendent responded that he would look into the cited books in the library and the policy regarding them. He also commented that the district is working on the lunch menu.
Larry Kutys gave a highly detailed report on the recent finance/facility meeting. They reviewed progress on the high school entrance project and plans for the WES roof. There was talk about the tennis court resurfacing and the solar panel projects. They are also revisiting the 5 year capital plan looking at improvements to safety systems like the fire alarms, security, the electrical systems and accessibility accommodations. They also discussed the need for preventative maintenance and board members at the meeting raised additional concerns about district facilities.
In the finance part of the meeting they discussed the Act 1 Index for the upcoming school year – that determines the amount by which school taxes can rise.
Kelly Wachtman closed the meeting with a statement that she’s heard from the community that some of the public comments are hurtful but the board’s role is to listen to all comments. I don’t want to misrepresent her comments, so you can watch them here.