Trenton Board of Education approve school calendar update, policy involving law enforcement not approved

Trenton R-9 School District

The Trenton R-9 Board of Education on Tuesday evening, October 13th approved, on a split vote of six to one, a school calendar update involving converting student days to all staff workdays. Board Member Corey Leeper was the only opposing vote.

Students will not be in class on October 26th and December 7th, but staff will still work. This is in addition to the other student day switched to a staff workday, September 28th.

Superintendent Mike Stegman said this will limit the number of snow days off to three. However, the district might implement alternative methods of instruction day on a snow day. Trenton R-9 must meet the minimum number of contact hours for students as required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which is 1,044.  He noted the district would need to reevaluate for the second semester.  Board Member David Whitaker expressed concern for letting students have the day off since they are already behind.   Board Member Andy Burress asked why staff should not be given the day off completely instead of coming into work, so staff members can do whatever they want. Stegman said staff is contracted for a certain number of days. These all staff work days would ease the stress on staff and allow staff to catch up.

Trenton Middle School Principal Daniel Gott reported doing in-person and virtual learning is like doing two jobs. He noted the September day was used.

Grant requests were approved. They included two from the GEC Community Foundation. One was for Rissler Elementary School Assistant Principal Adriane Todd for $580 to purchase recess balls and flying disks for each elementary classroom. The other was for Third Grade Teacher Marcie Stegman for $700 for web-based adaptive and individualized math fact fluency program Reflex Math. The other grant was from the BTC Area Youth Benefit Corporation for Fifth Grade Teacher Christy Gibler for $500 for Scholastic reading leveled books. Board Vice President Brandon Gibler abstained from the vote regarding the BTC Area Youth Benefit Corporation grant.

An early graduation request was approved by Allen Airey. Trenton High School Principal Kasey Bailey said he requested to graduate at the end of the fall semester and is on target for graduation. He also has permission to participate in prom and the spring graduation ceremony.

The board approved a policy update involving Title 9 regarding the process for resolving allegations of sexual harassment. Most incidents of sexual harassment in schools will not meet the definition and still be addressed using the current policy. Also approved was the superintendent as the Title 9 Coordinator.

Other policy updates were approved, and Stegman called most of them “standard.” One of the policies approved involved telework, which was a new policy created in response to an increase in employees working from home.

Two policies were not approved. One involved a driver testing drug and alcohol clearinghouse. Stegman said the district did not need the policy regarding drivers at this time because it does not currently own its own bus fleet. The other policy not approved involved law enforcement interviewing students at school. Stegman believes Trenton R-9 should work with law enforcement authorities when needed.

Whitaker questioned whether the district could legally keep law enforcement out of a public school. Board Member Marcie Cutsinger asked if the parents would still be contacted in regards to interviews. Stegman said the district should do it as a courtesy. Cutsinger believed the policy should be investigated more, and the district should talk to an attorney.

The board adopted a Homeless Liaison job description, Homeless Dispute Resolution process, Foster Care Transportation procedures, Foster Care Dispute Resolution procedures, and a Best Interest Determination From for Foster Care Placement. Rissler Principal Tiffany Otto noted the policies and procedures followed the most current regulations for the federal programs to be in compliance.

Special Services Director Tara Hoffman is the English Language Learner Program Coordinator and McKinney-Vento Homeless Liaison. Rissler Principal Adriane Todd is the Foster Care Liaison. A new web page has been in place on the district’s website regarding federal programs.

Otto mentioned there will probably be policy updates in the spring as well.

Hoffman presented the Special Education Program and Testing reports. She said Trenton R-9 provides early childhood special education services for preschool children ages three and four. The district received a DESE determination score of four out of four in the category of Meets Requirements in Implementing the Requirements and Purposes for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This is a compliance review year for the district.

School will be dismissed early Thursday, October 15th, and parent-teacher conferences will be held virtually for all buildings. Stegman noted some online conferences started at Rissler Tuesday, October 13th to make sure they get done. No school is scheduled for Friday or Monday.

Stegman announced the Foundation Trust for Trenton High School/THS Alumni Association provided memorial contributions for Fred Boland, which will go toward the new Performing Arts Center and THS boys basketball. The district also received a Patterson Family Foundation microgrant for $11,920 to use on pandemic-related needs. Plans are to use the funds to help support additional tutoring for students and buy additional supplies needing during the pandemic.

Stegman reviewed procedures regarding COVID-19. He reported students are sent to the nurse if they have symptoms, and the nurse analyzes and makes a determination as to what actions need to be taken. Sometimes symptoms can appear the same as the flu. Children may be sent home to monitor symptoms and may be asked to see a doctor. Students who return to school with recurring symptoms may be required to have a doctor’s note to return. Trenton R-9 does not require a COVID-19 test to reenter school.

If the district is notified of a positive test for a student or staff member, administration and nurses perform contact tracing for cases on campus. The Grundy County Health Department performs contact tracing if the case occurs outside of the schools.

A list is sent to the health department once close contacts are determined, and the district will make initial contact with parents to inform them of the close contact. The district also tells parents they will receive information from the health department about quarantining.

Stegman said he thinks the district and health department did the best they could at the time of school starting. He believes contact tracing has gotten better. The number of cases in the district is down at the moment. The specific number of cases was not specified. Stegman did say no one had no one out for COVID-19 Tuesday, October 13th.

He mentioned that sometimes individuals wearing masks get sent home to quarantine due to state guidelines. Whitaker thanks Stegman for clarity on procedures regarding COVID-19.

On a related item, he commented antigen tests are available for schools, and school nurses are looking into the matter. The test would take 15 minutes, but nurses would have to wear full personal protective equipment. Gibler said the board should consider putting a policy in place regarding antigen tests. Taul said parents should be involved.

The board moved into a closed session to discuss personnel.