During its meeting Monday evening, the Fairfield Area School District discussed early preparations for returning kids to school on a more normal schedule, but cautioned that it may be awhile before that’s possible.
Superintendent Michael Adamek said that he hopes cases of COVID-19 decline to the point that schools can fully reopen.
“I think at this point, hopefully, that we are past that holiday time period, where now it’s going towards our normal, everyday – hopefully kind of normal, everyday– routines, and our kids and our staff can keep from having a spread of the positive COVID cases,” Adamek said.
The district signed an attestation form in November that was mandated by the state. The district could choose to stay open but follow state guidance, or go fully remote until the county is in the ‘low’ transmission range for two weeks in a row. Currently, Adams County is in the ‘substantial’ transmission range.
Adamek said that school administration would like to continue keeping elementary schools on an A/B schedule and get the secondary students on a similar schedule, with Monday a virtual day for all students.
Adamek said a five-day schedule isn’t possible yet, but that the hybrid schedule should work along with the safety plan to help the children be face-to-face with their teachers.
“When we go to do five days a week and with the metrics and everything says that it’s safe for us to come back like that, bringing kids in five days a week is just like when we start every school year,” Adamek said. “We’re ready to have the kids in five days a week. It’ll be determined by the metrics saying that is safe and ready to come back, social distancing, six feet is no longer a subject of the determination. At that point, we’ll be ready.”
Board Vice President Jennifer Holz cautioned that just because Adams will eventually move into the ‘moderate’ phase doesn’t mean that schools can immediately reopen.
“’Low’ transmission rate is not the same as ‘moderate,’” Holz said. “So we had moved to a hybrid schedule when we were in a moderate phase. We’re currently in a substantial phase. So we have to jump two levels in order to bring the kids back five days a week. So, as soon as our phase goes down a notch, I don’t want the expectation set that the kids are going back automatically five days a week. There’s a lot that has to fall into place.”
Board member Jack Liller questioned why he has heard of other elementary schools in the area being open five days a week while Fairfield maintains an A/B schedule.
Adamek said he was unaware of any elementary schools in the county open five days a week and that he would look into it.
The board discussed whether it would need to hold a vote in order to return to a regular schedule when the time comes.
Adamek said that he can add the issue to the next agenda. The board will be able to vote to allow the district to resume a normal schedule as soon as conditions are safe, whenever that happens. The goal is to free the administration to make preparations and alert parents as soon as possible rather than waiting for a board vote to reopen schools.
School Director Appreciation Month
Adamek acknowledged the long, unpaid hours board members invest in the district.
“I hope folks in the community do understand that what you do is very difficult and you do it because you want the best thing for all the kids in the district,” he said.
The board members will each be presented with a certificate of appreciation from the district.
The Fairfield Education Association will make a donation to Ruth’s Harvest in the school board’s honor.
Athletic Field Cameras
Athletic Director Crystal Heller said that athletics during the pandemic have been ongoing, but difficult. Children have been practicing in masks and games are sometimes rescheduled last-minute.
“We continue to take every day one step at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time,” Heller said. “That has kind of been our motto with this season, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Liller praised the quality of the existing athletic cameras and asked whether it would be possible to add additional outdoor ones.
“More than COVID-wise, we have parents that work and can’t get to a game and they can watch it,” he said. “I think for security reasons, our security people have to like being able to go back and look at that, for a bunch of different reasons. That’s why I would ask if you could get an estimate on– I know we have football, we have the gyms done– if you could get an estimate for baseball, and the other one I guess is softball, and field hockey… And if we have to do something to fundraise or whatever, but I think that every kid that plays a sport ought to have an opportunity to save their high school memories like the basketball players, wrestlers and the football players.”
Heller said that the additional cameras may not be an option until late spring or summer, but she would look at quotes.
She also agreed to a board member’s request to add rosters to the website to make following along with the games online easier.
A parent of a child struggling with significant mental health concerns asked the board what the district can do to better meet the needs of those with similar struggles.
The board recommended speaking with counselors and teachers and signing the child up for sports as an outlet. Two board members offered to cover athletic sign-up costs or direct them to resources that may help cover the costs.
The board acknowledged a resignation from its part-time health room assistant, effective Friday. Advertising for the position was on the consent agenda but tabled until the next meeting.
The district has contracted with a nursing subservice that will fill the gap and will have an administrative person help with office duties that include contract tracing.
The board also discussed updating the job title of ‘health room assistant’ to better reflect the nursing responsibilities of the position as some members felt it sounded more administrative rather than nursing-related. They were also concerned that job seekers looking for a position involving nursing duties wouldn’t search for that title on job search sites.
The board may revisit the topic during its next meeting.
Business Manager Amy Simmons said that the district is working on a Covid-19-related grant. While it is not yet open for applications, the district is finalizing their application so it will be ready to submit when the window opens.
She also said that the district is looking at candidates to fill a food services position and plans to schedule interviews soon.
Liller said that he hopes the school menus are updated.
“I don’t know what the expectations of this person is,” Liller said. “I’m guessing the menus and all that are part of it. I really, I mean– this is for down the road when we get a chance to talk with these people, I’m sure– but I’ve had a chance to see and actually have some of the lunches that were brought home. We need to really, really work on that.”
Simmons also said that the department has been working on new menus.
The next regularly-scheduled school board meeting will be held on Feb. 8 at 7:00 p.m.