ACSD Board of Directors hears update on Return to Learn Plan to be submitted to the State of Iowa by July 1, other matter updates

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) School Board members met for their regular monthly meeting Monday evening, May 18. The meeting featured a full agenda addressing a variety of matters.

In personnel matters, the board approved the following hires, pending a satisfactory background check: Lee Stegen as eighth grade boys basketball coach; Stacie Cooper as elementary school guidance counselor; Lauren Allison as second grade teacher; Ben Rausch as head varsity girls basketball coach; Bob Wasson as ninth grade boys basketball coach; and Ashley Beach as special education teacher. Waukon High School Principal Jen Garin was appointed to the City of Waukon Parks and Recreation Board.

The board also accepted resignations from Laurie Adrian from her fourth grade position and Greg Criswell from his varsity head girls basketball coaching position. The board also approved Sunday requests for varsity football for Sundays throughout the summer, if allowed. Several open enrollments were approved, including one student in and three students out.

The board voted to approve renewing State memberships to the Iowa Association of School Boards and Iowa School Finance Information Services, as well as renewing their student teacher Memorandum of Understanding with Luther College and renewing the district’s driver education agreement with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC).

During the Communications time of the meeting, elementary teacher Joey Lapel thanked the board members for their dedication and service to the school district. ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis then handed out certificates to the board members to recognize them for all the work they do for ACSD.

During her report, Principal Garin noted that the modified graduation ceremony held Sunday, May 17 was a successful event. Only two students did not participate. Students and parents were asked to sign up for designated time slots in order to receive their diplomas, have photos taken and be filmed walking across the stage individually with only parents or guardians in attendance. Garin noted that social distancing was enforced, and she thanked the staff that helped for the day, which was longer than a normal graduation day. Garin also thanked Sportsmans Club in Rossville for giving each senior a gift certificate that was included in the packet they received. She noted that she is excited to see the video that will be put together of the event and made available for public viewing through the school district’s online venues in the near future.

Principal Garin also reported that Industrial Technology teacher Jed Hemann noted the school’s Construction class house project should be completed yet this month. Garin also touched on the Return to Learn plan which the district will have to submit to the State of Iowa by July 1.

Waukon High School Activities Director/Assistant Principal Brian Hilsabeck noted in his report that he and Principal Garin are continuing to monitor grades, along with teachers, daily as online learning continues during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He said they are hoping high school students are using the time away from school to improve grades with voluntary enrichment activities, and he noted that communication lines are open. They have also done some home visits.

The district has not heard from the Governor’s office nor the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) or Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) regarding summer sports and activities, but he is anticipating hearing by June 1. However, the schedules for the next school year’s activities are already being completed. Hilsabeck also reported that the high school track resurfacing project is scheduled for the later part of July.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege noted that as they move closer to the end of the school year, the teachers and staff have done a good job providing students with voluntary learning opportunities. Staff is also working on developing plans for those students who may need extra help in the fall. Steege said he has participated in Zoom meetings with students and many of the learning opportunities as well.

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith reported that he has been working with the new elementary principal, Samantha Thornton. He also noted that they are working on figuring out appropriate preschool tuition reimbursements for those families. Griffith noted that 65% of the elementary Chromebooks were checked out to families in April for home use during the current online learning process. He noted that the families signed agreements to pay for lost or damaged devices. The Chromebooks were scheduled to be returned May 18 and 19. Elementary teachers have also been providing additional learning opportunities, Zoom meetings and other digital activities.

Griffith also provided a letter to the board regarding the Bright Beginnings program at West Elementary School and suggested that the district move towards the name of Transitional Kindergarten (TK), as the program is known in many other districts. He also discussed in the letter the differences in letting four-year olds and five-year olds attend Kids Club. Griffith noted that there are differing supervision requirements for four-year olds versus five-year olds, and he suggested that five-year olds in TK be allowed to participate in Kids Club. Unfortunately, staffing issues prevent them from also allowing four-year olds at this time. He also proposed that TK students attend school five days a week for an entire school year instead of the current four days per week scenario, noting that the program is fully funded to do so.

In his Buildings and Grounds report, director Bill Hennessy noted that crews are continuing to finish up on the East Elementary project and that things are going well on the West Elementary project, noting that the asbestos work in the West Elementary building should be finished up by next week. The middle school gym floor has been waxed and the pillars at the high school entrance and by the library have been painted. There will be some work done on the baseball and football fields and the custodial staff is gearing up for summer cleaning. He also noted that the track will be resurfaced in mid- to late July.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon noted that they are preparing for the returns of the high school/middle school laptops and East Elementary Chromebooks. The ones that have been returned have had very little damage. The high school/middle security camera project is complete. The new copiers have also been installed.

Food Service Director Julie Magner reported that the COVID-19 grab-n-go meal numbers have been increasing and they have gotten good feedback from parents and students on the breakfasts and lunches. They will continue to serve the same grab-n-go type meals through May 22, then take a break and start up June 1 with the Summer Feeding Program.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that he received a call from School Bus Sales advising that the two new buses ordered by the district should arrive by the end of the month. He also noted that the new gate is up at the bus barn and the wiring is completed.

Superintendent Jay Mathis noted that graduation went well. He also explained to the board a bit about the Return to Learn Plan that must be submitted by July 1. There will be three parts to the plan. The district will have to have plans for in-person learning, online learning and a hybrid learning option should there be a situation where they can only have so many students in the building or if families do not feel it is safe to send their students due to medical or other concerns. They will also have to address what to do if they must do virtual learning and students don’t have internet access or need additional support learning. He also noted that the feeding programs have been going well. There will be a June program and possibly an August program, but the district will take the month of July off.

Under new business, the board approved the bid from Anderson Erickson Dairy in the amount of $57,558.20 for the 2020-2021 milk bids.  The board also approved transferring $10,946.40 from the General Fund to the Student Activity Fund for expenses regarding protective equipment. The expenses include the reconditioning and recertification of football helmets, as well as helmets and catcher’s gear for baseball and softball.

The board also approved the 2020-2021 student fee schedule. The only thing that was raised was the price of adult meals. Board member Brent Beyer also asked if it would be possible to offer a family activity pass. Garin thought that was something they could look into. The final item of business before adjourning was the approval of two change authorization requests for the East Elementary project.

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