The Trenton R-9 Board of Education the evening of Tuesday, September 8th discussed various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic regarding the school district.
Some of the discussions focused on employee status during the pandemic as related to classification as essential employees. Superintendent Mike Stegman reported the federal government lists teachers as essential, and he believes they are essential. However, the state does not list teachers as essential. If teachers were deemed essential, they could come to work if they were put on quarantine or not. Stegman said several teachers were put on quarantine, felt fine the whole time, and had no problems. He explained he talked to several attorneys about what would happen if the board voted to consider the employees essential. He noted some said it would be against state policy.
Several board members commented they would like to see the district keep school doors open as long as safely possible.
Stegman said the district has been desperate for substitutes since the beginning of the year. New subs are being used. If Trenton R-9 gets to the point where they can barely keep open its doors, Stegman said the district and health department could decide employees could come back before two weeks of quarantine is complete.
He mentioned he gets calls daily asking why the district has not closed or gone to all virtual learning because of the pandemic. Other calls say they do not want the district to close. It is difficult to make decisions, and he gets criticized no matter what he decides. The district tries to be consistent, but Stegman acknowledged things are not perfect.
He has been contacted by someone from an area daycare who was concerned that if the district shut down, there would be more students at the daycare. The daycare would not be able to monitor students’ online learning for six hours a day.
Stegman is not sure if shutting school doors would slow the spread of COVID-19. He thinks children would not stay home, and they get together with others.
Board Member David Whitaker said he does not believe closing the schools would flatten the curve. He thinks it is too late to flatten the curve.
Board President Dorothy Taul pointed out cases in Grundy County increased after teacher work sessions.
Stegman does not believe the beginning of the school year started the increase of cases in the county. He thinks residents came back from vacations and then went back to school. He said the district does not require anyone to get tested for COVID-19, but a doctor’s note may be required to come back. Contact tracing is done when there is a positive case. A whole class is sent home at Rissler Elementary School if there is a positive in the class. Siblings could also be sent home if one child in a family has symptoms.
Stegman noted some students at Rissler are being tested, which could mean another class is sent home. He indicated 117 students were out as of Tuesday, September 8th due to the pandemic. District administration is “short” because of quarantines. He commented that one teacher did not have any close contacts because of the precautions he or she took.
Stegman mentioned students are doing well wearing masks. He is proud of staff members for the way they are reacting, especially those at Rissler. The district is dealing with each case independently and following guidelines from various entities. He said the district wants to keep people safe. Board Member Corey Leeper said he thought the district was doing well considering it is a no-win situation.
Twenty-three of 60 hot spots purchased by Trenton R-9 have been provided to homes who do not have internet for virtual learning use. IPads have also been provided to some homes. Stegman said the district could look into getting more hot spots if it needs to.
Stegman reported the district has used CARES Act money it was allocated from Grundy County as reimbursement on items purchased relating to COVID-19 since March. Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels said those items included temperature scanners, chemicals, plexiglass dividers, and mobile trash cans.
The Trenton R-9 Board of Education approved early graduation requests and several other matters the evening of Tuesday, September 8th. Superintendent Mike Stegman reported several additional early graduation requests had been submitted since last month’s meeting.
Students approved to graduate at the conclusion of the fall semester include Quincy Griffin, Isaiah Lovell, Brice Gibler, Kayden Spencer, Mackenzie Talley, and Lanie Johnson. In a submitted report, Trenton High School Principal Kasey Bailey said their credits were audited, and they are on target for graduation. They have permission to participate in prom and the spring graduation ceremony.
Board Vice President Brandon Gibler abstained from the vote.
Bus routes were approved. Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels reported there were no changes with the routes from the previous school year.
The board approved interest being paid to the Grundy County Jewett Norris Library for a certificate of deposit at Citizens Bank and Trust that Trenton R-9 oversees. Interest paid to the library for maintenance is $75.06. The interest received will automatically be paid to the library fund for continued renovation.
The Jewett Norris Library account has a value of $15,000. Interest was earned in August 2019 and February this year of $37.53 each time.
The board also approved a full maintenance service agreement with the Missouri School Boards Association for $3,479.
Stegman went over the first reading of MSBA policy updates. Some of the topics they regarded included conflict of interest, setting tuition, creating a response to employees working from home, and Title 9 federal guidelines. The board is to consider approval of the policy updates at next month’s meeting.
Stegman reported construction is progressing for Trenton R-9. The southwest hall next to the performing arts center and front of the PAC are blocked off to students during construction. The media center is close to being done. The district received a $1,800 grant for tables and benches to be put in the new courtyard at the high school.
Stegman said the Seamless Summer lunch program has been brought back to provide free meals for those 18 years old and younger. Ockenfels noted the program is through the United States Department of Agriculture and will run until December 31st or there are no more funds.
Rissler Elementary School is implementing the iReady learning platform for reading. Stegman explained the program will help the staff determine students’ reading levels. The district can develop data-driven reading strategies differentiated for individuals students.