Watch video of meeting: July 23, 2020, Board Meeting
The School Board on July 23, 2020, heard an update on the District’s re-entry plan for the start of school. The Board also approved a resolution to refinance certain outstanding bonds, and approved bids for fuel and a Ford Transit. The Board scheduled the annual tax levy hearing for 6:45 p.m. Aug. 27.
School re-entry update
District leaders provided the latest updates to the school re-entry plan as Ray-Pec prepares to return to school on Aug. 24. Superintendent Dr. Mike Slagle said that a team of teachers, parents and school leaders have been assisting in developing the plan. The District is receiving guidance from the Cass County Health Department, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control, Harvard School of Public Health, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence.
The re-entry plan was first emailed to parents on July 10. Several emails and newsletters have followed.
To provide an in-person learning experience for as many students/parents who want it for as long as we can, while providing a reasonable risk reduction strategy for all.
To provide a rigorous and relevant virtual instruction experience for those students/parents who are desirous of that experience.
The plan offered parents a choice of in-person learning or a virtual learning experience.
Dr. Al Voelker, Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services, reported that of the total expected enrollment of 6,220, a total of 5,503 students have completed registration, with 78 percent selecting in-person school, and 22 percent selecting the Virtual Instruction Program of Ray-Pec (VIPR). He shared a table showing the breakdown by school. Total enrollment in VIPR was 1,205 students.
Dr. Voelker described the proposed alternative schedule for in-person classes for grades 6-12. This schedule will provide for smaller classes, which will allow for greater physical distancing. Students at the middle schools and high school will be divided into two groups: Group A and Group B.
Group A will have in-person school on Monday and Wednesday, with virtual instruction on Tuesday and Thursday.
Group B will have in-person school on Tuesday and Thursday, with virtual instruction on Monday and Wednesday.
All students will have virtual school on Fridays.
Dr. Bryan Pettengill, Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services, reminded the Board that other alternatives may need to be implemented. There may be periodic classroom or school closures due to positive cases of COVID-19. If further distancing is required, students in grades 6-12 may transition to an entirely virtual schedule, and students in grades K-5 may be spread out further by using space at the middle schools. It is also possible that all students would have to move to a virtual model.
Dr. Lisa Hatfield, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, told the board about staff surveys related to the return to school. One survey, with 500 responses, showed that 15 percent had no concerns about returning to school/work; 77 percent have some concerns but are planning to return; 8 percent have some concerns and would rather not return; and 0.5 percent have significant concerns and do not plan to return to work.
Dr. Hatfield reviewed some of the staff concerns, explaining how the District is addressing those issues. For example, in response to concerns about the availability of substitutes, the District is seeking to hire one permanent substitute per school for the first semester to provide extra support. Regarding concerns about physical distancing in some elementary school classrooms, Dr. Hatfield said that spaces like cafeterias, libraries, music rooms, art rooms, and other larger classrooms will be used as necessary.
Another survey asked staff about safety and curricular needs for this school year. The respondents asked for cleaning supplies, wipes, hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks and shields, Plexiglas barriers, individual school supplies for students and other items. The District plans to prepare a basic kit of safety and cleaning supplies for each classroom.
Michele Stidham, Director of Communication, told the Board how the District is communicating about "regular" back to school topics, such as registration, vaccinations, and bus routes, as well as topics specific to 2020. With the registration deadline now passed, the District will focus on communicating about the alternative schedule for grades 6-12, technology, safety measures, and activity updates. Stidham also said that the District was committed to sharing information with staff and families if a staff member or student tests positive for COVID-19. That communication would include any schedule changes or closures.
Review the School Re-entry Update presentation here.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Teacher Brett Beneke praised the work taking place to plan for the 2020-2021 school year. He also requested that the Board consider delaying the start of school to allow for more time to plan and prepare.
In other business, the Board:
You can watch the July 23, 2020, School Board meeting here. Please note that due to technical difficulties, it is difficult to hear the speaker at the podium.