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Fisher tells school board Governor’s proclamation won’t change procedures in Charles City School District

By James Grob,

Charles City Superintendent Mike Fisher said a proclamation issued last Friday by Gov. Kim Reynolds won’t change anything regarding COVID-19 protocols in Charles City schools.

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Fisher said that the mask mandate for staff and students will remain in place, and it will still apply to all visitors and guests, and to all in attendance at sports and other school events.

“I want to make the point that those proclamations don’t really impact the school,” Fisher said. “All of our restrictions were in place long before the governor had made any proclamations.”

Reynolds signed a public health disaster proclamation last Friday which eased previous public health regulations geared to controlling the spread of COVID-19

As of this week, Iowa residents are no longer required to wear masks. It reverses a proclamation last November, when Reynolds required individuals to wear masks when indoors in a public space and within six feet of individuals who are not part of their household.

Fisher said that in his conversations with Floyd County Public Health officials, they have recommended the school district continue with the established protocols. He said the mask requirement is one of the most necessary protocols, because it essentially allows the district to continue to operate.

“That’s important — without the mask mandate, if we have a positive case, it forces so many more people into quarantine than it does if they’re wearing masks,” Fisher said.

He said that at one point last fall, more than 300 people in the district were in quarantine. Fisher said that more recently, it’s rarely more than two or three people, because most people are following the mask rule.

Additionally, the governor’s proclamation stated that Iowans are no longer held to 15 people for indoor gatherings, as of this week. Reynolds instead strongly encouraged event organizers to take reasonable measures to protect the health of their guests as well as the public.

The new proclamation “strongly encouraged” residents with medical conditions and those over the age of 65 to limit activities outside of their home. It also encouraged those who are not at substantial risk to limit their interactions with those more susceptible to the virus.

Fisher said the district’s agreement with the Northeast Iowa Conference regarding spectator guidelines has not changed, and the restrictions are not impacted by Reynolds’s proclamation.

At school sponsored athletic and fine arts events, a household is permitted to attend, plus two tickets, and social distancing is still expected.

“It’s not the easiest thing to police, but we do the best we can,” Fisher said. “We largely rely on the honor system, that most people are honest and follow the rules.”

Reynolds signed a law last month requiring school districts to return to full-time on-site learning. The board had already voted 3-2 to return to full-time, in-person learning for all students in grades 7-12 at its Jan. 25 meeting. Elementary students had been on-site full time since the start of the school year, while students at CCHS and CCMS had been utilizing a hybrid learning plan.

Fisher said the news has been good and numbers have been low since grades 7-12 went to full on-site learning. On Monday, he presented the board with a revised matrix formula to aid with the decision to go to full remote or full on-site learning, necessary because the law eliminated the hybrid learning option, which was previously a part of the matrix.

The district would now need a waiver from the Iowa Department of Education and a recommendation from public health agencies to implement full remote learning. Further discussion and a vote to approve the revised matrix is expected to be on the agenda at the next school board meeting.

In other action at the meeting Monday, the school board approved the purchase of a Lincoln Electric computer numerical controller (CNC) plasma table, with accessories and software, for $28,971.02. The board waived the bidding requirement for the purchase, which will be made with Perkins funding.

CCHS Principal Bryan Jurrens submitted the request for the purchase, which he said would allow students the opportunity to explore, learn, and utilize skills that are used in current manufacturing practices across the nation.

Jurrens told the board that currently CCHS students’ only source of CNC technology is a broken plasma cutter that was donated, for which parts are no longer available.

“As they continue to increase opportunities for students and increase career opportunities it is important that they match the current technology that is being utilized by the current workforce,” Jurrens said.

The plasma cutter includes a software package that gives students the opportunity to design products and utilize coding to transfer the designed product into the system.

“This will give students not only the opportunity to use and maintain a CNC plasma cutter, but also the opportunity to program and troubleshoot different projects,” Jurrens said.

The bidding process was waived, at Jurrens’ request, because the software package that is included makes this specific product unique. Other CNC plasma cutters are harder to get parts for and are harder to utilize, Jurrens said, and nearly impossible to get serviced.

Jurrens said he could expect the plasma table to be delivered to the district, ready to use, in 2-3 weeks.

Also Monday, the board approved the design of the new Central Services office, which will be located in a remodeled area on the west side of the old transportation center. The building would contain four offices and a reception area, as well as two restrooms, a storage room and a conference room.

Buildings and Grounds Director Jerry Mitchell presented the plan for the new office at the Jan. 25 meeting. The city has approved the plans to begin construction. Mitchell told the board that since most of the work will be done internally, there will be no change orders prepared for board approval, however, the plans may change slightly as new ideas or concerns are addressed with the current design. The board approved funding for the project as part of the 2021-22 facility projects.

An amount of $70,000 is budgeted for the relocation of Central Services. The approved budget for facilities projects for the upcoming fiscal year is over $900,000.

The district must move its Central Services offices out of the North Grand Building within the next 6-9 months since developer Shawn Foutch, who purchased the historic part of the building, will be starting renovation work this fall.

In other business Monday, the school board:
• Approved a contract with Midwest Roofing for $62,800 to replace the high school section M roof, as part of the 2020-21 facilities project.
• Recognized the hard work of school counselors Ray Cole (CCMS), Scotti Hagensick (Lincoln), Chealsey Moen (CCHS) and Sandy Thomson (Washington) in a proclamation in recognition of National School Counseling Week.
• Appointed student Michellel Jones as the junior student board member for the school year 2020-21.
• Heard presentations from Fisher regarding culture and climate, from CCHS principal Bryan Jurrens regarding digital content delivery and Lincoln principal Marcia DeVore and CCSD tech director April Hanson regarding new metrics for a healthy campus.
• Accepted the resignations and applications for early retirement, effective June 30, 2022, for Carrie Lane teacher Don Betts, English Language Arts teacher Mary Catherine Blanchard, Lincoln Elementary teacher Melinda Masters and CCHS associate principal Larry Wolfe.
• Accepted the resignation of Kim Usher, CCHS para-educator, effective Feb. 1.
• Accepted the appointments of Danielle Vance, Washington para-educator, at a wage of $15.09 per hour, and Allison Kuehn, music lesson assistant, at a wage of $13.25 per hour, effective Feb. 9.
• Accepted the appointment of Jenna Haglund, assistant varsity girls track coach, at a salary of $3130, effective Feb. 8.
• Accepted the appointment of Bryan Bjorklund, at an unspecified salary at this time, as high school computer science teacher and varsity head football coach, effective Aug. 1, 2021.