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Havre schools discuss re-opening, fans at activities

 

September 9, 2020

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre Publilc Schools Interim Superintendent Craig Mueller speaks to the Havre school board Tuesday in Havre Middle School.

The Havre Public Schools re-opening plan was discussed with some updates as well as the return-to-play guidelines and procedures Tuesday at the Havre School Board of Trustees meeting.

Havre Public Schools Interim Superintendent Craig Mueller gave an update of areas in the re-opening plan.

He said that the technology language mentioned in the plan is the distribution of Chromebooks to occur to the students to engage in learning on their off days.

The district ordered 500 Chromebooks back in March, which still haven't arrived, he said.

"So far we've handed out approximately 150 Chromebooks to our remote learners and then the tech department was able to take those carts that were remaining to build smaller carts for use of the middle school and the high school, based on the maximum student number after the split occurred," he said. "... We don't have enough devices, as it sits right now, for our district to go 1:1, but we're working on that and we'll be much closer in that respect with the 500 Chromebooks that are on their way and we're able to purchase devices for Highland Park - iPads, cases, Apple pencils and new Apple TV boxes - for display of the iPads, so that in the K-1 building we will be able to go 1:1 with iPads for our little learners."

The COVID-19 CARES Act dollars will be used to purchase those devices, he added.

He said the district could receive those iPads as early as three weeks and distributed the fourth week.

"We're doing the best that we can with the devices that we have," Mueller said. "Trying to with the devices we do send out. They have on them what is needed for students to be successful."

He said another thing in the plan he received questions about was wifi and hotspots to the internet.

"During our remote learning phase, we put a hotspot at the high school and encouraged parents to drive to the high school, so that they could easily access that hotspot," he said. "Our tech guys have found a better location to use that hotspot out of the north side of the (Robins School Administration Building) with parking right there at Robins where you are going to get a stronger signal, you won't be so far away. We also didn't want to have the mixing of cars parked in the parking lot with additional cars coming there to access our wifi."

Virtual attendance is standard across the district, he said.

Check-in time for students on their off days is from 8 a.m. to noon, he said, adding that is standard for all five buildings.

"With this standardized process, we felt that single check-in allows teachers to know that students are engaged in some form of learning and it also allows us to check in on students from that noon to approximately 3 time in the afternoon," Mueller said. "... I think, after this week, we'll maybe take a look at it again. Parents can still call the building and say, 'Well, I forgot to check my child in,' and we can make those adjustments after the fact."

Mueller said he and the activities director have been working closely with the Hill County Health Department to allow more fans into games and activities.

Havre High School Activities Director Brian Kessler said this includes allowing additional tickets for additional groups that are present at the games such as football parents will receive two tickets as well band, color guard and cheerleading.

"We've also clarified for Senior Day, Senior Nights recognition they would get an additional two, so four for seniors on those days," he said. "Children under 5 would not count as part of that ticket, anybody over 6 and older would count as a ticket for the event."

He said the tiers would be open to sitting, not parking.

They will have x's and areas people can't sit, six feet apart and a section where people could bring their lawn chairs if they choose, he said.

"Quite a big change in the number of tickets we would be giving out right now, hoping that each game we would move forward and maybe add a different element of it - more students, parents, cars, that sort of thing, hopefully as we go," Kessler said. 

The crowd size includes both teams, coaches, workers for the games, concession workers, administrators and the people who help make a game run, he added.

These revisions were approved unanimously by the board.

 Enrollment numbers throughout the district were also discussed.

Current enrollment K-12 is 1,730 students, Mueller said, with the high number in the kindergarten class with 161 and low number in the third grade class with 113.

He said the enrollment numbers are higher this year compared to last year.

Last year's enrollment as of March 31 was 1,696 students.

"In Group A, we have 807 students across the district and, in Group B, we have 811 students spread across the district," he said. "Our current opt-out number is at 248."

He said he has multiple parents who chose to do opt-out, but now are requesting for their children to be back in the building at a limited time.

During the public comment section of the meeting, parent Miranda Hencz said she has two children in the district, one is a fifth grader and one is a freshman.

She said she is wondering when the school district will return five days a week and why that isn't on the agenda compared to returning to play sports.

"My main focus here tonight is I can't believe we have a spot on the agenda for return to play, for sports when we're not more concerned about our kids going to school, in person, five days a week," she said. "I can't believe that doesn't have a spot on the agenda. What are the plans for getting back to a regular five-day-a-week in person learning atmosphere for our children? Do you have plans? What does this community have to do to strive to get our children back on a more normal basis and a more normal schedule?"

When the board approved the blended plan Aug. 11, Mueller recommended that the schools not go back to full in-class instruction until the state entered Phase 3 of its re-opening, which is contingent on a number of factgors including the number of active cases in the state, availability of testing and personal protective equipment and the amount of community spread in the state.

Hencz said she doesn't know how many students are in the high school and the board is talking about 450 students and people available at sporting events she can't understand.

"I'm asking you to use your common sense here," Hencz said. "Please use your common sense. Isn't our children's education more important than playing sports?"

The last board meeting she came to, she said, a great majority were for going back to school five days a week.

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

"I never heard anybody talk about sports and wanting to get back to play, but here we are - they are on the agenda. Things are happening," she said. "... I think this is crazy. I want kids to play sports. It's healthy. It's important. My kids want to be interactive with their friends and you did the best you could splitting the kids into different, however alphabetically or whatever, but neither one of my kids are going to school with their friends.

"It's been a long five months and I appreciate what you're doing, but please, can we not make the education of our children at least as important as the sports?" she asked.

The next special board meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 22, at 12:15 p.m. at Robins School Administration Building.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 6:30 p.m at Havre Middle School.

 

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