In a quickly-changing environment in which the state may recommend that schools return to online learning at any moment, the Fairfield Area School District (FASD) has increased its board meetings from twice per month to weekly.
“We’re going to have stuff to discuss. Shooting an email is different than discussing it. We need to do our diligence on a weekly basis,” said board member Jack Liller about the decision.
School Superintendent Michael Adamek said he was concerned about increases in COVID in the county and that the Pennsylvania Board of Education might recommend the district return to online learning.
Adamek said the county had moved into the “substantial” level of spread when the positivity rate recently passed the five percent level.
“The Department of Health has the power to say districts will shut down. They haven’t done it yet but they might,” said Adamek.
Adamek said the district was ready to move to all-virtual learning at any time if needed.
Schools are moving into the second marking period and at least some students are moving back to in-person from online instruction. Middle School Principal Patricia Weber said social distancing would still be possible even with the increased numbers of children in school.
District Nurse Kristi Ebaugh said 13 students were sent home with COVID-like symptoms last week. To help deal with the increase, the board approved a contract with Maxim Healthcare for temporary nursing staff at a maximum of 24 hours per week. The nurses will be paid for through an existing COVID grant with a total not to exceed $18,000.
“The nurses will be able to make phone calls or also fill in if needed,” said Business Manager Amy Simmons. “This gives us more flexibility as needs come up. We’re going to need all hands on deck.”
Simmons reported the district is applying for more COVID funds for the school and for the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program.
Simmons said Community members need to re-apply for Free and Reduced Meals even if they are already in the program.
As fall sports come to an end and indoor winter sports begin the board approved the Winter Return to Sports Plan. “The plan according to league rules is that there will be home spectators only,” said Athletic Director Crystal Heller. Heller said it would be likely that each child would receive three admission passes that could be given to anyone, but that this would depend on the particularly sport, and the size of the venue and the teams.
Heller said video cameras that would allow home streaming of indoor sports were expected to be installed before the season begins.
“With the money and time parents have put in with their kids they deserve to see them play,” said Liller. “I don’t want to see half of the gym empty.”
Heller said she was a proponent of keeping sports programs going even if the school went fully online during the winter months.
Crystal said youth sports will follow the same guidelines.
Director of Buildings and Grounds William Mooney said an inspection had shown leaks in many of the school roofs. The board considered the possibility that some of these leaks might be repaired under an existing HVAC contract.
The board approved payment for the installation of the security fence around the bus depot. The total cost was $44,950 with $30,000 from the PCCD Safety Grant and $14,950 from the 2019/2020 budget.
The district will be advertising for a new food service director to start sometime on or after January 1, 2020. The position replaces Lynda Comeau who is retiring.
The next board meeting, to be held in a virtual format, will be Monday November 16 at 6:00 p.m.