ACSD Board of Directors hears project and other updates, discusses outlook for upcoming school year

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met for its regular monthly meeting Monday night, June 15. Prior to the meeting, board members could look at one of the new LP-powered school buses recently purchased by the district.

In personnel matters, the board approved hiring Sally Dougherty as a Kindergarten teacher, Melissa Brodahl as a fourth grade teacher, Andrew Sires as freshman girls basketball coach and Quinn Brennan as assistant varsity girls basketball coach. The board also accepted the resignation of Ben Rausch from his position as assistant varsity girls basketball coach, as he has been hired as the varsity girls head coach in replacement of the retiring Greg Criswell. The board also approved the renewal of software agreements with Grantwood AEA and the SAI Mentoring and Induction Program Agreement.

During the communications time of the meeting, Jody Peake briefly addressed the board as the parent of two children in the school district. She asked that the district allow children to be able to come back into the school in the fall and asked that they not make it a requirement that everyone has to wear masks. Peake said she felt that by requiring everyone to wear masks, it can have sociological effects, including the feeling of further isolation and separation. The board thanked her for coming and expressing her view on the matter. Board President Al Rissman then asked for a moment of silence in remembrance of former board member Tom Baxter, who passed away last week.

During the principals’ reports, Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin reported that 11 students are working on credit recovery. The Construction Class house project has been finished, and she thanked Jed Hemann and Caleb Ferring for their work on that. She also relayed to the board, from Activities Director/Assistant Principal Brian Hilsabeck, that it was opening night for baseball and softball that same night, thus explaining his absence at the meeting. There is an application that is going to be used to track the health of players during those summer seasons that have recently gotten underway. Hilsabeck’s report also explained that the district continues to look at the fundraising schedule to keep it effective without exhausting the community. In 2019-2020 they had 82 requests and the number dropped to 63 in 2020-2021.

Waukon Junior High Principal Luke Steege reported that the afterschool programming is back in session from 8 a.m. to noon during the summer. There have been anywhere from nine to 13 students participating, and the students are broken up into groups to follow all social distancing and group guidelines. He also noted that staff are preparing for the fall and that teachers are working on strategies to help students move forward.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Joe Griffith noted that this will be his final meeting with the ACSD. He thanked the board for its support, and he explained that the Kindergarten and fourth grade teacher positions were interviewed by himself and incoming principal Samantha Thornton, whom Griffith said will be a good fit for ACSD as his replacement.

Building and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that the East Elementary project will be finishing up soon. The West Elementary project has been moving along, and the good weather has helped with that. The custodial staff has begun waxing and cleaning, and some of the summer projects have already been completed.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon noted that they have been able to fix the cracked screens on the Chromebooks in-house, saving the district about half of the cost. He noted that they are in the process of cleaning and updating, as well as helping with Return to Learn plans.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that he is working with drivers on how to maintain a safe environment for passengers and themselves and that bus seats will be numbered and students will have to sit in the same seat to and from games this summer, according to COVID-19 mitigation guidelines. The 84-passenger buses will now hold 14 passengers. He also noted that they are working out the logistics and details of fueling the LP buses, such as if they can fill them off of an LP truck or if the district should buy its own tank.

Superintendent Jay Mathis reported that they are working on the Return to Learn (RtL) plans, which are due to the State July 1. He noted that the Department of Education has announced that there will be an application available June 17. He also noted that ACSD has been working off a template they got from St. Patrick School Principal Katie Fahey. There are seven sections of the plan and the ACSD has three of them completed. His hope is that they have face-to-face learning in the fall, but they are preparing for virtual learning, if needed. They are also making plans to install sneeze guards in the offices and have extra hand sanitizing stations and other hygiene precautions.

Mathis noted that there are still some questions on spacing and distancing requirements. Board member Beth Shafer asked Mathis if he had a “gut feeling” on what was going to happen. Mathis responded by saying he thought that kids would be able to come back to school, but also noted that could just be “wishful thinking” too. Rissman thanked all the staff for their work and time on the RtL plans and during the COVID outbreak.

Under new business, the board approved a Certified Employee Handbook, Staff Policies and Administrative Rules, and Student Handbooks for the high school, middle school and elementary schools. The board also discussed and approved several change authorization requests for the West Elementary HVAC project. The topic that garnered the most discussion was whether or not to install touchless faucets in the bathrooms. The faucets would be battery operated and there would be a bit more maintenance involved, but the ultimate goal is to try and reduce situations where multiple people would be touching something and possibly spreading around germs. The change would add an additional $22,392.70 to the project.

After much discussion, the board agreed that the cost would be worth it if it helped to keep the students healthier by reducing the risk of spreading colds, flus or COVID. Several board members expressed that they felt it was the appropriate time to do something like that and hoped that it may help ease some concerns parents have as well.

Even with this addition, the district is still going to come in about $48,000 under the contract amount.

The board also approved a new circulation desk for the West Elementary library at a cost of $5,624.66, including the cost of installation. Mathis noted that this desk is similar to the one at East but has a modular design which allows for it to be separated and gives them more options to set it up.

The board then discussed the proposal by the City of Waukon to gift the district the LED sign that once sat downtown at the stoplight intersection. The board did not make a decision on whether or not to accept it, but did discuss concerns with where would be the best, and safest, place to put it so that it would not cause distractions to drivers. They discussed hanging it on one of the gym walls so spectators to events could be informed about other school events.

Mathis did contact the district’s attorney in order to clarify what types of community events can be advertised on there if the sign ends up on school property. He said he would take the information discussed at the board meeting back to the City and see if they still wanted to gift the sign to the district.

The board then approved a bread bid from Pan-O-Gold in the amount of $10,050 for the 2020-2021 school year. The board also approved payment of bills through June 30, 2020 with board president approval. The board then had a brief recess and moved into a closed session to conduct an evaluation of personnel.

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