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School board approves phased return to in-school learning

By James Grob,

The Charles City School District Board of Directors approved an action plan for the phased re-opening of school buildings at Monday’s meeting.

A staff task force of teachers, students and staff worked on the plan to safely reopen the schools, and the board had discussed the options and timeline for reopening or remaining in the current hybrid system at a work session last Wednesday.

The district will begin a phased reopening of grades 6-12 beginning Oct. 19, and be fully reopened by Nov. 2.

Under the plan, the middle school will fully reopen to in-person learning through a phased process, while the high school will reopen using a modified schedule, with students in grades 9-10 in the building four days a week and students in grades 11-12 in the building three days a week.

Elementary students in the district have been learning in their buildings full time since the school year started. Currently, students in grades 6-12 are attending school through a hybrid plan that includes some on-site learning and learning from home.

The School-To-You option will remain in place for any parents who choose to take it. School-To-You is a state-mandated online learning option that will be available for the entire school year.

The board approved the plan unanimously.

“To hear the teaching staff come forward and say that they were willing and comfortable with this plan made it more comfortable for me to vote for this,” said board member Pat Rottinghaus.

Board member Janiece Bergland agreed, and said the the staff coming up with the plan changed her mind.

“We also really appreciated all the thoughts about the reopening plan that were shared by parents,” said board President Josh Mack. “It was helpful to get feedback from the community.”

Charles City Superintendent Mike Fisher said he also heard feedback from students, which was very helpful.

The district’s 6th-graders will begin full five day per week in-person learning beginning Oct. 19, 7th graders will begin Oct. 27 and 8th-graders will begin Nov. 2.

The high school will fully open using a modified schedule starting Oct. 27. Students in grades 9-10 will attend in person four days per week, while students in grades 11-12 will attend in person three days per week.

The board also unanimously approved a hybrid decision making matrix that  Fisher presented.

The health matrix takes into consideration student absence rates and transmission rates within Floyd County as metrics to determine whether to remain teaching on site, to go back to the hybrid learning plan, or — in a worst-case scenario — closing school altogether, an action that would need approval of the Iowa Department of Education.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, Jerry Mitchell, director of buildings and grounds operations, explained COVID cleaning procedures and COVID safety guidelines for air exchanges to the board.

Mitchell explained to the board that there are daily check sheets on cleaning all rooms, and additional cleaning includes hand sanitizer stations throughout every building, bottles of hand sanitizer, wipes and other sanitary items in each room.

Mitchell said  custodial staff sprays down all common areas on an hourly basis and  playground equipment is disinfected on a regular basis. He also said that all common areas are disinfected each evening and buses are disinfected by drivers after every route.

Mitchell also said that the district has installed air filtration systems in each building to meet established COVID-19 guidelines.

Mitchell also presented information to the board regarding the three year facilities strategic plan. Major projects include a new maintenance shed, finishing the transportation center project, removal of the old bus barn and completion of the College Grounds. Future projects will include new roofs, new buses and needed paving.

Also on Monday, the board held a public hearing and unanimously approved a resolution to expend funds from district’s unexpended and non-obligated home school assistance flexibility account, totaling $60,620.37. There was no public comment on the resolution.

Funds expended will include over $40,000 to Agile Minds for math curriculum, just under $13,000 to Otto’s Oasis for landscaping at Washington Elementary, $5200 to Sandy’s Sign Shop and Blue Bird Photography for signage and just under $400 to Circle K for radios.

In other business Monday, the school board:

• Accepted the resignation of Tyler Downing as 7th-grade basketball coach and approved the appointment of Downing as head girls basketball coach at a salary of $6,821, effective Oct. 12.
• Accepted the appointment of Katelyn Shultz as assistant girls basketball coach, at a salary of $3,344, effective Oct. 12.
• Accepted the appointment of Michelle Grob, head speech coach, at a salary of $2,568, effective Oct. 12.
• Accepted the appointments of Christine Cleveland and Derek Sturtevant, fall play accompanist and music direct, at salaries of $200 each, effective Oct. 12.
• Accepted the appointment of Harrison Sheckler, fall play conductor, at a salary of $100, effective Oct. 12.
• Accepted teacher contract salary modifications of 13 teachers for additional graduate course work.
• Approved an hourly wage increase for Curt Carey, mechanic, of $2 per hour, for obtaining four certifications in diesel exhaust fluid, LP bus training, Bendix (air brakes), and bus
camera installation and operation.
• Recognized and thanked principals Kara Shannon (Washington), Marcia DeVore (Lincoln), Joe Taylor (CCMS), Tom Harskamp (CCMS), Bryan Jurrens (CCHS), and Larry Wolfe (CCHS) for their contributions to the district in recognition of National Principals Month.
• Heard a presentation from Shannon and DeVore regarding information on their 2020 vision.
• Heard information from director of finance Terri O’Brien on what income surtax is and how it is used to fund the Instructional Support levy.
• Accepted the 2020-21 annual report and approved the line item budget contained within the report​ and accepted the Sept. 2020 financial reports as presented by O’Brien.
• Approved student teaching agreements with William Penn University and Morningside College for