The School Board of the Bloomer School District held their final meeting before the start of the school year on Monday, Aug. 16. Most of the meeting was focused on the plan for returning to school safely, which was presented and approved at the meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Brian Misfeldt presented the 2021-22 Safe Return to In-Person Instruction Plan and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds budget to the board and the public. The plan looks like the plan that was put in place last school year with a few changes.
It will be reviewed periodically by the board and the district will be in coordination with the county and state health departments as well as be up to date with CDC guidelines. The plan has two main parts: maintaining health and safety and continuity of services.
Maintaining Health and Safety
Firstly, as of now wearing masks will be optional, but highly recommended in all school buildings. The district will work with the county health department and reserves the right to require wearing a mask at anytime and will follow any masks mandates put in place by the government. In addition, any person displaying COVID-19 symptoms may be asked to wear a mask and should have one available in that event.
The district will also take steps to accommodate physical distancing including cohorting for 4K-seventh grade except for students receiving special services and elective classes. In addition, there will be a second lunch period at the high school, spacing of lunch tables at the middle school and adjusted procedures for dismissal and arrival.
Handwashing will be encouraged for staff and students. Handwashing stations are available in elementary and middle school classrooms. Hand sanitizer will be available in classrooms and gathering areas and students will be encouraged to use them.
Rooms will continue to be cleaned on a daily basis and sanitizing spray and wipes will be used in each classroom to clean high-touch surfaces.
Contact tracing procedures are based on county health department recommendations. Any person who tests positive will be required to quarantine and the district will conduct contact tracing. Any person who is within six feet of a COVID-19 positive person for more than 15 minutes will be considered a close contact and asked to quarantine.
Vaccinated individuals who are close contacts and not displaying symptoms do not need to quarantine.
Families are encouraged to screen their children daily for symptoms. If they are displaying symptoms, they should stay home and if they display symptoms beyond baseline at school, they will be sent home and may have to produce a negative test or quarantine.
The district encourages those in the district eligible to receive the vaccine to get one at the county vaccination clinics or local health clinic. Misfeldt said that the district does not have specific vaccination rate numbers for its students, but he would estimate that around 80 percent of staff are fully vaccinated.
Students with disabilities or specific health needs will be accommodated through their IEP or health plan.
Continuity of Services
Starting on the first day of school the district will resume a pre-pandemic academic schedule including athletics and activities. The district will also resume a pre-pandemic intervention schedule with the hiring of additional interventionists and support staff to help serve students who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic.
In the event of school closure, the district will continue to provide instruction to students remotely.
The district has also created behavior support specialists at the elementary and middle schools to meet student social, emotional and mental health needs within the classroom. There is also a new counselor position that will be .75 high school counselor and .25 district mental health counselor to support students and assist in finding services from outside agencies in a variety of different areas.
The district will also continue providing breakfast and lunch meals to students for free. Misfeldt said while this is automatic, he still encourages families to fill out the necessary paperwork for free and reduced meals because it helps the district secure more funding.
This re-opening plan is subject to be changed at any time and is available to the public on the district website.
In addition to the plan, Misfeldt also presented the board with the expected ESSER funds the district will receive from the federal government to help with reopening. Estimated conservatively, Misfeldt expects to receive $1,748,212 in funds that must be spent between 2021 and Sept. 2024. Misfeldt’s current budget for the funds leaves $109,028 in funds to be used wherever there is need.
The board approved the plan and budget and left policy the same regarding employee COVID-19 related absences. Employees must use their sick time in these circumstances.
Outside of COVID-19 topics, the board approved the 2021-2022 Seclusion and Restraint report, the second reading of policies and school handbooks for the upcoming school year.
The board also decided to join a mass lawsuit regarding vaping in schools against manufacturers of e-cigarettes. The district has had an increasing number of issues with students vaping in schools and should the lawsuit be won; the district would receive a portion of the settlement to go towards combating the problem at no cost to the district.
Before the board went into executive session, they set a Sept. 7 board retreat date. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20.