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July 6, 2020

6/23/2020 2:23:00 PM
Highland School Board and administration discuss reopening protocols for August
School will look very different this upcoming August for Highland students due to COVID-19 precautions.
The current plans, which may change down the road, include having high school students physically in the building two days a week, middle schoolers three days a week, and elementary students five days a week - the rest of the time will be virtual. There will be lots of social distancing and maintaining the recommended six feet of distance between students. Face coverings will need to be worn if not maintaining the six feet of distance with elementary students possibly not having to wear them at all. The State of Wisconsin will be providing face coverings to all students in Wisconsin schools. Special education kids may be at school every day depending upon their needs. Additionally, staff and students will be self-monitoring their health - there will be no check-ins as that may actually do more harm than good as it will cluster the students and staff and require more than one person to do that job. Furthermore, kids who are sick whether it be a cold, flu, or whatnot will be required to stay at home longer due to extra precautions; due to this, there will be some more virtual options in place for these scenarios. Finally, students with a higher risk or to ease parents' minds will be allowed to do schooling completely virtually. "Virtual school is going to be different than it was this year. We need to build on what we learned," Josh Tarrell, Highland Principal said. These recommendations come from the best practice and advice ONLY from the DPI. The State of Wisconsin will not be releasing any definitive orders Highland Superintendent Nancy Hendrickson explained. "DPI has a draft out now, but it isn't helpful," she elaborated. "We need to provide the best learning environment and keep everyone safe. Families need to be confident that Highland is safe for their kids. I'm frustrated with the slow rate of getting information, but we have to plan anyway." Board Member Greg Biba agreed and stated that he doesn't want to see the district lose kids to an online school. It's estimated that six percent of CESA 3 schools will be opening only virtually. The district will be consistent with what area schools are doing.
In July, schools are allowed to open back up to the public. Kids will be allowed back in on a limited basis. Kids in the fitness center or gymnasium will need to wear masks when not engaging in physical activity and can only come in if they're in good health. Moreover if things stay good for Iowa County, the district may have an elementary summer school with the appropriate plans in place.
Who has to wear what? What's the best pathway forward? What role does the school board want to play? How does this work for transportation? These were all questions posed by Hendrickson to the board. All members agreed that the guidance needs to be clear and straightforward. There were still a lot of questions with not many answers at the end of this discussion.
Another topic around COVID-19 was the senior class trip. The trip was originally slated for May and was approved by the board at the beginning of the year; however since then, things have changed drastically. In previous years, the school district paid for the transportation and driver to the destination, and it was a school-sponsored trip; however, the board was uncomfortable with this due to health and safety reasons. It was tossed about to have kids/parents sign a permission slip, but that still didn't seem like enough. "If we can't provide field trips this fall, how can we do one in July?" questioned Board Member Ken Esser. In the end, the board agree to put the money that'd be spent on transportation into the senior account to be used how that group of students decided whether it be food or tickets or whatnot. The school will not be sponsoring the trip or transportation. The decision on how to proceed forward is up to the seniors.
For the end of fiscal year 2020, the district has approximately $90,000 left to spend out of the budget. Several technology and maintenance-related items have been purchased already. The board had previously tabled purchasing Hudl and Eye in the Sky and took the same action to postpone a decision. This will be looked into again at the next meeting the end of June.
The budget for next year, however, may not be looking so great. Hendrickson showed the board three different scenarios that could happen due to lack of funding of state aid due to COVID-19 repercussions. The first was a freeze on funding which would see $54,953 of monies; the second was $50/per pupil LESS which would be minus $70,303 from the budget; and the final scenario saw $100/per pupil LESS resulting in $85,653 taken from the budget. Hendrickson's opinion is that the first picture is the most likely one, but if needed, items can be trimmed from the budget. Hendrickson can easily cut out $95,000 from the budget for next year if needed. On the positive side of that budget, the district will be getting $40,000 in CARES Act funding. "We should be able to absorb some of the losses they're projecting. We don't have to panic, but it is going to be tighter," she stated.
In other business:
• The board approved the May 13, 2020 minutes and the current expenses and vouchers payable.
• The district will be having a transportation committee meeting with WARCO. WARCO is requesting $18,000 from the district to help make them whole on their contract for the 2019-20 school year. The board wants to keep a relationship with the company. Should the district find other sources to cut and pay them? The committee will be meeting to decide just that.
• School Nurse Sharon Friederick submitted her yearly report to the board. She is a contracted nurse for two days a week in the district. "She does a lot in the time she's here and has been instrumental in COVID planning," Hendrickson said.
• The second reading of employee compensation-unexpected and extraordinary circumstances was approved. There were no changes from last month. The gist of this policy allows the district flexibility to use federal grant dollars for employees during the pandemic.
• There were no increases or changes in the registration and athletic fees for next year. The lunch rates will be increasing as per government regulations. Elementary lunch will be going up by $0.05, middle/high school lunch rates by $0.10, and adult lunches by $0.10. New this year, the district will be offering an online payment options for all fees via Infinite Campus. There is a small fee per transaction which will be passed onto the district families. Fees can still be paid via checks and mailed to the school as well.
• The WIAA membership was passed. There are no fees associated with this, and there were no changes.
• Four to five kids are estimated to open enroll into the district next year with four to seven kids possibly open enrolling out. Numbers won't truly be known until they do or don't show up on the first day.
• Donations from Lands' End and McCon Building Corporation were accepted with gratitude.
A special board meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 24.

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