School board held special session last Monday evening

Danae Milbrandt

On Monday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. the Montevideo School Board held a special meeting to discuss the new PPE guidelines for the 2020-2021 school year, as well as new policies and training for the staff before the start of the semester.

The meeting began with Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller briefing the board about a new sexual harassment policy, that has been in place with the student body but is now being taken on by the staff as well. The first training, he stated, will be taking place in September.

The board moved onto action items, which included calendar changes for the board and upcoming school year. A motion was made to accept the changes, which was approved via roll call vote.

Next discussed was a new policy regarding the governor’s face covering guidelines as it applies to the health and safety of the students and staff.

“Even if there isn’t a policy, there’s still guidelines or standards there from the Executive Order,” said Heller. “When the Executive Order ceases to be in effect, so does this board policy.”

Heller added that there are still requirements for those with medical conditions, where alternatives would be in place. A motion was made to accept the new policy, which was approved via roll call vote.

The board then discussed the surveys sent out to families regarding whether they are opting for distance learning rather than hybrid or in-school learning. Each building’s principal stated how many surveys were sent out and how many families responded, as well as how many there were left to contact. According to Heller, 14 to 18 percent of responses indicated a preference for distance learning, but that could change as more responses are received.

According to Heller, building preparations have been going well in anticipation for the upcoming school year.

“Our only glitch,” he said, “is watching the numbers, and then we don’t get real concrete direction from the state. I was having a conversation with Countryside, and the question they asked me was ‘what is the state telling you?’ And I told them we haven’t received much about that, and that I was told you were going to provide direction. So communications have been lacking there.”

But, Heller said, he has been pleased with the willingness of the local public health agencies they work with to assist the district as they get things going for the school year.

Lastly discussed was what the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders would do on days they have off from school within the middle school hybrid learning model, with concerns of them being left home alone. Principal Bob Grey said, “Right now with hybrid at the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade level, the current plan is to use the health room on those off days and hire someone to staff that.”

Grey added that each of day would require a room for 15 kids on each off day, and that the health room is big enough to hold 15 kids, following social distancing requirements. Students would use each off day to do their schoolwork. However, there are still 60 families to contact, and if the current number grows they will have to come up with a different plan.

There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.