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Fisher says that although COVID numbers are much improved, mask mandate still in effect

By James Grob,

Charles City Superintendent of Schools Mike Fisher told the Charles City School Board of Directors Monday that the district’s COVID numbers have looked good following the district’s return to in-person learning last month, but it’s important to remind people that wearing a mask in school is still a requirement.

“The numbers have continued to stay low, and attendance rates have been good,” said Fisher, who also mentioned that the second round of COVID vaccinations for school staff will be administered next week. “I think it’s good, that cases seem to be declining.”

Fisher said that with the improved numbers, he’s heard reports that students seem to be less vigilant about wearing masks.

“We are going to have to work on reminders to all our employees, staff, students and parents that the mask mandate will still be enforced at all our campus buildings,” he said.

Fisher said that continuing with the mask mandate is more important than just being good, safe procedure. If a student is exposed to someone with COVID, the quarantine restrictions are much more stringent if that student isn’t wearing a mask.

“Based on the quarantine rules, if you’re around someone who tests positive and they’re not wearing a mask, there will be a whole bunch more people quarantined,” he said. “That’s something we want to avoid.”

Fisher said that at one point this school year, the district had more than 300 people quarantined.

“We really don’t want to have to do that again,” he said. “We are going to readdress this with our students, and let them know that nothing has changed, as well as helping our staff remember how to kindly and gently remind students of that.”

Fisher said that he understood why many people are seeming to “forget” their masks more often.

“It get it, it’s wearing on us,” he said. “We’re all sick of the masks, but we have to keep this pandemic in check. We don’t want to see lots of kids missing school.”

The board approved a new decision-making matrix for the school district at the meeting Monday. The revised matrix was made necessary because the Iowa Legislature passed a law which eliminated the hybrid learning option for all school districts, which was previously a part of the matrix.

“That and some of the governor’s orders made a lot of things in the old matrix null and void,” Fisher said. “We needed to revise the matrix anyway, and we had people in every building look this over, and we had Public Health look this over, and it met their approval.”

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.

Fisher said that he hopes the district wouldn’t need to use the matrix anymore, but needs to be prepared in case there’s another pandemic sometime in the future.

The new decision-making matrix applies for all grade levels, and students may choose full on-site or “School to You,” with no hybrid option. Decisions will be made individually for each campus, based on positivity numbers. Campuses may move to remote learning if adequate essential staff are not available and with an approved waiver by the Iowa Department of Education.

In other business on Monday, the board approved a bid from Countryside Construction for $50,539.92 to construct the new vehicle garage, approved another bid from Countryside for $117,305.17 to construct the new maintenance shed, and approved a bid from Mike Molstead Motors for $22,750 for the purchase of a 12-passenger 2019 Chevy Express Van. All three projects were previously approved as a part of the facilities plan budget.

Also at Monday’s meeting, the board team was awarded the “Team Achievement Award” through the Iowa Association School Board (IASB) Better Boardsmanship Awards program for 2019-20.

Only five board teams in the entire state earned the award, which requires the majority of the board to earn individual achievement awards, and requires that the board must have a development policy in place. A plaque was presented to the board in recognition of the honor.

In other business Monday, the school board:
— Heard a presentation from teachers Abby Gomez at CCHS, Brenda Bailey at CCMS, Diane Sande at Lincoln and Brandy Mutch at Washington, who all provided updates on the school district’s culture and climate.
— Approved the resignations of Ross Chettinger, elementary special education teacher, effective June 30; Scotti Hagensick, elementary counselor, effective June 30; and Denise Flick, Lincoln para-educator, effective Feb. 19.
— Approved the appointment of Evan Marten, director of finance, at a salary of $90,000, effective July 1. Marten will also serve in the position for 53 days prior to his starting date, at a salary of $18, 346.
— Approved the appointment of Ray Cole, middle school track coach, at a salary of $2,956, effective Feb. 22.
— Approved the appointment of Laura Smith, high school counselor, at a salary and start date yet to be determined.
— Approved the personnel transfer of Erik Hoefer, 8th-grade language arts teacher, to the position of middle school exploratory teacher, effective Aug. 1.
— Approved several revisions to the relocation assistance regulation and procedure. The main revision is increasing the amount of assistance from $1,000 to $2,000. The relocation assistance regulation was first approved by the board on May 13, 2019.
— Approved the driver education contract agreement with Street Smarts for the period of July 2021 to July 2024. The cost will increase from $365 to $380.
— Reviewed the proposed school calendar for 2021-22 and set a public hearing concerning the calendar for Monday, March 8, at 6:15 p.m. in the CCHS library.