ACSD Board of Directors hears from public regarding students returning to school amid COVID-19, along with updates on high school HVAC repairs, other projects

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met for its regular monthly meeting Monday night, July 20. Personnel matters approved under the consent agenda included After School Program staff, Brenda Good as a substitute bus driver, Rachel Adney and Amber Adney as co-volleyball coaches, 2020-2021 Mentors, fall sports volunteers and the resignation of paraprofessional Mariah Fogt. Also approved under the consent agenda was renewal of the Backpack Program for 2020-2021, the Free and Reduced School Meals policy and the MidAmerica HRA Service Agreement update.

During the communications time in the meeting, several members of the public addressed the board regarding the upcoming school year. Dr. Steve Perkins was present to ask the board to have on-site learning but to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) regarding use of face masks, handwashing and social distancing. He also suggested that students ages 10 and up wear masks in classrooms if they can’t socially distance, as well as teachers and staff, noting that children ages 10-19 transmit the COVID-19 virus at the same rate as adults. He noted that there would have to be compromises and that he, like many others, wants there to be on-site learning but wants it done safely. Dr. Perkins and his wife, Stefanie, sent a letter to the school district last week prior to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ press conference Friday, regarding students returning to school.

Next to speak was Dr. Dave Schwartz. He spoke briefly about his experience with what he’s seen of COVID working at Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon. He noted that as the governor stated, kids need to be in school, but spoke of how mask rules would be enforced. He also spoke of how difficult it could be to test students as well as some of the mental health issues that he has been seeing in younger people, partly due to situations and stress from the virus. He noted that it may be something that society will “have to live with”, much like influenza.

Parent Christina Smith was present to ask the board not to make face masks mandatory and spoke on what she felt were some disadvantages to wearing masks, including the fact that it may make it hard for students to hear a teacher and see the teacher’s facial expressions.

Tom and Camie Treptau also addressed the board and spoke in regard to their experiences with campers getting COVID at the Village Creek Bible Camp they direct in rural Lansing. They expressed that it would be almost impossible to keep COVID out of the schools and that it probably would spread, but it’s important to protect the vulnerable. Some suggestions they had were that students should have a quarantine plan, possibly adding extra health personnel in the schools to screen students. They also noted that sometimes basing things off of temperatures isn’t enough and there may need to be additional health questions asked.

ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis thanked everyone for their perspectives, professionalism and decorum, as many issues with COVID can be touchy subjects. He said that he and the board members would take all of their comments into consideration as they work toward making a final decision on how school will be held next month. The district hopes to have a more firm decision in a couple of weeks to coincide with registration, which begins the first week in August (see additional information in the advertisement below).

The annual Mileage Report for the district was discussed. During the 2019-2020 school year, the district had a total of 20,824 miles put on its vehicles. The district also collected a total of $937.27 for facility usage during the 2019-2020 school year.

In his Superintendent’s Report, Mathis noted that the West Elementary renovation is coming along. There was a delay in some of the flooring, but Mathis noted that the flooring has made it to the U.S. and is on its way to be installed. The utilities have been connected so the workers are no longer relying on portable power supplies.

He also noted that the district’s Return To Learn plan is up on the district website. He noted that recommendations sometimes change daily and that makes it challenging to make decisions, but the hope is to get kids back in school buildings to learn as soon as possible.

Mathis also noted in his report that the high school rooftop HVAC units are in need of more significant maintenance and component replacement. Mathis and Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy have been working with Casper Plumbing and Heating on the project and have also asked Vic Amoroso to give the district an estimate on having him do an assessment of the system and the controls.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that he had spoken with area propane distributors looking for propane bids and what would be the best way to fill the two propane buses the district has. Currently, it is looking like the best option would be to fill from the LP trucks instead of putting in a tank at the bus barn. Should the district get more propane buses, then it may be more feasible to have a tank installed at the bus barn.

Teacher Joan Schwartz addressed the board members, informing them that for the first time since 2002, the school district’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter had students place in the top ten at a national event. Three students placed fifth in their event during a virtual national competition.

Under new business, the board approved an amendment to the high school student handbook regarding the “Senior Year Plus/PSEP/PICC” classes policy. The board also approved a bandwidth upgrade for ICN Internet access, as well as a subscription to Zoom software for the district which would be beneficial for situations where virtual or distance learning are necessary. The district was using a free account, but a subscription will give the district more options and more control over the meetings. Funding for the Zoom subscription and bandwidth update could be paid for out of the money the district received from the CARES Act.

The board then moved on to the high school rooftop HVAC repairs. Mathis explained that a year ago, the district spent approximately $30,000 on repairs, so when they got the bill for repairs this year, totaling $27,389, he was concerned. He and Hennessy have been working with Casper Plumbing and Heating on the units and when asked what the district should budget for maintenance of the units, they were told approximately $30,000 and that will be added to the summer maintenance budget. Most of the components being replaced are original to the units, which are 13 to 14 years old. The life expectancy of the units is approximately 14 to 18 years.

Replacement of the units would cost around $1 million. Mathis pointed out that, at this time, maintenance of the units is the best option for the district. The board approved the bills for the repairs of the unit. The board also approved having Vic Amorosa of AJ Associates do a study of the units in order to see how they are performing and what can be done to maximize the life of the units. The board then approved several change authorization requests for the West Elementary remodel and HVAC projects.

The board then moved on to select its legislative priorities for the 2020 Iowa Association of School Boards Legislative Resolutions. This year, the board chose the following items as their top four: support for efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health systems to offer preventative and treatment services and comprehensive school mental health programs; adequate resources for research-based programs and strong instructional leadership for teacher leadership development; support for additional tools to attract individuals for teacher recruitment and licensure, especially in areas where there is a teacher shortage; and support for supplemental state aid.

The board also approved the first reading of numerous board policies prior to adjournment. Also prior to adjournment, Mathis asked the board if the August meeting could be changed to Tuesday, August 18 at 5:30 p.m. and the board agreed to the change for August.

: 100 - Legal Status of the School District; 101 - Educational Philosophy of the School District; 102 - Equal Educational Opportunity; 102.E1 - Annual Notice of Nondiscrimination; 102.E2 - Continuous Notice of Nondiscrimination; 102.E3 - Notice of Section 504 Student and Parental Rights; 102.E4 - Complaint Form; 102.E5 - Witness Disclosure Form; 102.E6 - Disposition of Complaint Form; 102.R1 - Grievance Procedure; 103 - Long-Range Needs Assessment; 104 - Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment; 104.E1 - Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Complaint Form; 104.E2 - Witness Disclosure Form; 104.E3 - Disposition of Complaint Form; 104R.1 - Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Investigation Procedures; 105 - Assistance Animals; 409.1 - Employee Vacation-Holidays; 409.2 - Employee Leave of Absence; 409.2E1 - Emergency Paid Sick Leave Request Form; 409.2E2 - Expanded Family and Medical Leave Request Form; 409.3 — Employee Family and Medical Leave; 409.3E1 - Employee Family and Medical Leave Notice to Employees; 409.3E2 - Employee Family and Medical Leave Request Form; 409.3R1 - Employee Family and Medical Leave Regulation; 409.3R2 - Employee Family and Medical Leave Definitions; 409.4 - Licensed Employee Bereavement Leave; 409.5 - Licensed Employee Political Leave; 409.6 - Licensed Employee Jury Duty Leave; 409.7 - Licensed Employee Military Service Leave; 409.8 - Licensed Employee Unpaid Leave; 414 - Classified Employee Professional Purposes Leave; 414.1 - Classified Employee Vacation - Holidays - Personal Leave; 414.2 - Classified Employee Personal Illness Leave; 414.3 - Classified Employee Family and Medical Leave; 414.3E1 - Classified Employee Family and Medical Leave Notice to Employees; 414.3E2 - Classified Employee Family and Medical Leave Request Form; 414.3R1 - Classified Employee Family and Medical Leave Regulation; 414.3R2 - Classified Employee Family and Medical Leave Definitions; 414.4 - Classified Employee Bereavement Leave; 414.5 - Classified Employee Political Leave; 414.6 - Classified Employee Jury Duty Leave; 414.7 - Classified Employee Military Service Leave; 414.8 - Classified Employee Unpaid Leave; 414.9 - Classified Employee Professional Purposes Leave; 414.11 - Support Staff Personnel - Temporary Leave; 501.9 - Student Absences - Excused; 501.9E1 - Request for Remote Learning Form; 601.2 - School Day; 604.11 - Appropriate Use of Online Learning Platforms; 907 - District Operation During Public Emergencies; 907R1 - District Operation During Public Emergencies Regulation.

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