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Havre school board picks blended plan for re-opening schools

 

Last updated 8/12/2020 at 12:32pm

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Melissa Turner addresses the Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees before its vote on procedures in re-opening the Havre Public Schools this fall. The board voted to use a blended option, with half the students attending alternate full days of school.

See our photo albums for additional photos of this event

The Havre School Board of Trustees met Tuesday and voted 7-1 to approve a blended plan for re-opening this fall of having half the students attend some days and the other half the other days, with Fridays off for distance learning.

Board Member Ed Hill voted against the resolution, and Cindy Erickson, Brian Williams, Theresa Miller, Harvey Capellen, Curtis Smeby and Tim Scheele voted for it.

Havre Public Schools Interim Superintendent Craig Mueller said the students will be attending all day and it will be close to the regular instructional days when the students are in the schools.

The days student are not in the buildings, they will use distance learning.

Numerous parents, teachers, students and community members attended the meeting, with about 20 giving comments to the board.

There were also 130 people who attended through Zoom.

Most who spoke supported the district using the full re-opening option.

Mueller recommended the board go with the blended plan, saying that until the state moves into its Phase 3 re-opening, the district schools should not be fully re-opened.

He said the Board of Trustees and school administration will consider the following issues in deciding to move into different phases:

• The total number of cases in the town, county, surrounding areas and state;

• the positivity rate of COVID-19 - the percentage of people who test positive for the virus of those overall who have been tested;

• the absentee percentage of students and staff

• local, state or national orders and directives.

A return to Phase 1 would entirely use remote learning and moving Phase 3 is a complete return back to school.

The plan includes a separation in the alphabet of who will be attending what days and what that will look like, he said.

"Schedule 2B and really Phase 2 in all is a temporary solution to address the concerns that are not only shared from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, but from our Hill County Health Board and from other health professionals in our community about opening schools without being able to maintain social distancing," he said.

He said Group A will meet Mondays and Wednesdays, Group B will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

In Phase 2, a limited number of students will be present in the school building at one time, with remote learning occurring for all students not onsite, the plan says.

The cafeteria may be open, Mueller said, which will not only be for grab-and-go meals but also allow students to eat in the cafeteria in small groups that are socially distanced.

Friday will be reserved for remote learning, teacher-initiated instruction as needed for those students who need assistance with mastery of skills and standards, and teacher preparation time.

In the event school is not in session on Monday, Tuesday will serve as the "A" day, moving the days back with school in session on Friday.

Face coverings are required when staff and students are in common areas and hallways, especially during transition times between classes. As students are seated and socially distanced in the classrooms, Mueller said, then students can remove their face masks or face coverings.

He said the school district has received 150,000 face masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The CDC no longer require temperature checks as students enter the learning environment, he said, adding that he asks parents for their assistance in doing daily home screenings for students before the student comes to school. 

"Any absences or symptoms should be reported to the school's attendance secretary," Mueller said. "... Students who become ill during the day will have their temperature checked and recorded, be isolated in a designated area and monitored until they can be sent home or parents can pick them up."

He listed guidelines if a student has possible exposure, has an illness or tests positive for COVID-19.

• Students with any illness should be fever free for 24 hours in addition to improving symptoms prior to returning to school. In most cases, COVID-19 is clinically indistinguishable from other common respiratory illnesses. COVID-19 testing may be required to determine if a student is virus free. In this case, the student and other family members should remain home until testing results are known.

• Students with a positive COVID-19 test result will be quarantined at home until it is safe to be around others, which is after 24 hours with no fever, respiratory symptoms have improved and 10 days since symptoms first appeared or a positive test result is made. The Hill County Health Department will provide a release to return to school. 

• Students with a COVID-19 exposure will be required to quarantine at home for a minimum of 14 days, even if they are asymptomatic.

• For COVID-19-tested individuals, if the test result is negative, individuals will need to provide a note from their health care provider or the health department with a return date and be symptom and fever free as per CDC guidelines.

Mueller added that teachers who are considered at-risk or living with people who are considered at-risk have the option to teach remotely.

He said he has received about 50 responses of students who have chosen to opt-out, about 10 from each building, so far.

The deadline for the option to opt-out is Friday.

Remote learning shall include any combination of physical instructional packets, virtual or electronic based course meetings and assignments, self-directed or parent-assisted learning opportunities, and other educational efforts undertaken by the staff and students that can be given for grade or credit, he added.

"We're going to continue to work to get students back in the building as quickly as possible and as safely as possible," Mueller said.

People commented on the options available before the vote was taken.

Mueller said the district's re-opening team would go over the comments made during the meeting.

Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line director Tim Brurud said the club will work with the district.

"We at the club are going to support the decision you make tonight," he said. "We are committed to offering out of school programming whatever that looks like whether it's morning, afternoon or whether it's all day for a certain number of kids."

He said the club is going to work closely with the school and make sure the club provides as much help as it can in that area.

Parent Jake Ingram said he will have a daughter going into kindergarten this year.

He said he would like to see the school open back up with as little restrictions as possible, get things back to normal as fast possible.

Parent Autumn Lineweaver said she has two sons in the district, one who is entering first grade and the other in kindergarten.

"We are here tonight in support of Phase 3, full-time, in a traditional setting, five days a week," she said. "... It will be more detrimental for students not to return to school full-time then the risk of contracting COVID-19 presents. They need to be back in school."

She said if Phase 2 is implemented, families with two working parents will have a tough time picking up and dropping off students at various times throughout the day.

"Let's get our children back to school full-time with their peers, so their intelligence and social skills can flourish," Lineweaver added. "We certainly don't want to leave learning to chance."

Havre High School Math Teacher Heather Haney said she has three children in Havre Public Schools.

"I just think the Monday through Thursday option half days, that's, in my personal opinion, our best option just because we get the kids in contact in a more normal, more daily routine, and that's my thoughts," she said

Parent Melissa Turner said she has two children in the district - one is entering the school district this year and one will be in second grade.

"My biggest concern with the way it is being looked at to go forward is a lot of children in the Havre area don't have the same last name as their siblings," she said. "So parents will be expected to bring their kids at multiple different times a day to be busing them three, four times a day to get their district kids to and from school and their activities."

With the younger children, she said, she is great at teaching her children science and math, but doesn't know how to teach her child how to read.

She said her daughter is 5 years old and no matter what she does she is having a hard time teaching her how to read, adding that with her oldest daughter it was hard getting her in the first few months to read with a full school day.

Havre High School Sophomore Macey Huston said she will not wear a mask.

"You don't want these kindergarteners and these younger kids to think this is normal because it is not," she said.

Hill County Board of Health member Erica McKeon-Hanson said they have to look at everything as a whole because the re-opening is part of the public health.

"We have to look at the community as a whole, we have to look at all of the children, we have to look at all of the families and do what is best for each other," she said. "So, we are asking you and your job to do what is best for all children. I think we all can agree that we want our kids back in school. That is a pretty common thing, but how we do that safely is the difficult part."

She said there are some guidelines that have come out, but it is not a one-size fits all.

A huge part of public health is prevention, she said, so they are trying to prevent the outbreak, prevent children from being exposed and have staff that are missing.

In order to do that they have to do that they have to base it on best practices and research that is done, she added. 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre Public Schools Interim Superintendent Craig Mueller addresses the Havre school board before it votes on an option to re-open the schools this fall.

"This is a novel coronavirus, which means it is new, we have never seen it before," McKeon-Hanson said. "The minute that it came out we started doing research. We started going to work, so that research is still coming out daily, but we know social distancing is important, we know that wearing masks is important, we know that helps to prevent the spread." 

The updated plan is available on the school's website at https://www.blueponyk12.com .

The budget for Fiscal Year 2021 for the elementary school and the high school were approved unanimously. 

The district educational work plan which involves curriculum review plans was approved unanimously. 

The next special board meeting will be Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 12:15 p.m. at Robins School Administration Building.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 6:30 p.m at Havre Middle School.

 

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