The new school board held its first business meeting, the video is available on Youtube and the agenda is available on board docs.
The student representative opened with current events at the schools such as food drives and spirit days. The elementary and middle schools are having their winter concerts this week. She followed up with a run down of this year’s accomplishments by the football, cheerleading, basketball, debate and Hi-Q teams.
The superintendent’s report referenced the two later focus topics. He then discussed the plan for the upcoming equity audit the district is doing. The DEI committee is organizing focus groups on Jan 10, 12, 18, 19 and 20th with people they select. The contractor performing the audit is creating an equity scorecard starting on Dec. 15th. The district has been preparing data for the audit, but are finding that much of the data they need that should exist doesn’t. A survey will be announced on Jan 4th and sent out on Jan 6th to run for two weeks. There will be further community focus groups on Jan 4, 6, 11, 13 and 18th.
The finance and facility committees will meet Dec. 21st, the agenda is pending. The policy committee is meeting Dec. 22nd to do the second reads of previously edited policies. The education affairs committee will meet on Jan 5th to discuss school start time and technology. These committees meet in B-226 in the middle school at 7 pm.
Focus Topic 1 – Calendar
The administration presented two calendar options for the 22-23 school year and one for 23-24. Some of the advantages of a pre-Labor Day start were more instruction before state testing, an earlier start to summer activities, a break between the end of school and start of summer school and a better balance between semesters. The calendar process starting on Sept. 21st and was discussed with two committee meetings in the fall reviewing it. The new calendar was discussed, with more information on the back of the calendar.
There was a discussion of observance of cultural and religious holidays and they said policy 204 would be reviewed and promoted. There was mention of a need for guidelines to determine what holidays are observed.
Later the board made several comments and highlighted that some parents must plan 12 months in advance, so school calendars need to be made further in advance. They indicated little support for the petition signed by over a hundred community members to delay consideration of the 2023-24 calendar.
Focus Topic 2 – Health and Safety
As background the administration laid out the back and forth in the courts for the state’s school mask mandate, which the state supreme court has now struck down, returning control to local governments. There is little community data available, and county-based data has been used. The plan is to move to building/district data instead.
So far there have been 107 district cases thus far, though they have been rising after the Thanksgiving holiday. The state would require school buildings to close if 5% of students get Covid in a two week period. The administration’s plan would call for no mask mandate unless 2% of students in a building report having Covid in a two week period.
Guidance from the Chop Policy Lab was shown briefly, though little detail was given. The proposed changes will take effect on Feb. 7th because models indicate the winter Covid rates should slow by that time. Vaccination rates remain at 55-73% of the middle and high school, but its too early for reliable numbers for younger children (since vaccination does not count until 2 weeks after the second dose). The administration reminded parents to please submit vaccination information so they have reliable data to work from.
The changes would also change the rules for close contacts. Unvaccinated children not wearing masks would be counted as close contacts and need to quarantine at home or take part in the test to stay program to remain in school.
The board made numerous comments and asked several questions but seemed broadly supportive of the plan. There were some questions about use of vaccination data for decision making.
The petition to delay the 23-24 was presented and another resident pointed out there was time to delay the calendar and vote on it later in the year. A further comment was supportive of the two year calendar.
The board approved the post-Labor Day start for 22-23 by a vote of 5-3. The 23-24 calendar was supported unanimously.
The minutes, personnel items, finance and student service items passed without significant comment.
There were several public comments on both sides of the masking issue.
Kevin Henry presented a report on the previous meeting of the Educational Affairs committee, though much of its work was covered in the focus topic.
Categories: Government, WSSD