The Trenton R-9 Board of Education on August 10th discussed COVID-19-related matters for the upcoming school year.
Superintendent Mike Stegman began by going over a list of protocols. They included staff and students attending school in person and using social distancing.
Masks will be optional for staff and students inside district facilities. It is “highly recommended” unvaccinated staff and students consider wearing masks inside district facilities, but it is not mandatory.
Stegman noted that masks are required on public transportation due to a federal order; it is not a Trenton R-9 rule. The federal order includes school buses and involves drivers and passengers. Parents are asked to make sure their children have masks before loading buses.
Visitors will be allowed but limited, and masks will be encouraged. Stegman said people should refrain from unnecessary visitations during the school day.
The district will continue to work with the Grundy County Health Department on quarantines, vaccinations, and other COVID-19-related issues. Stegman emphasized that Trenton R-9 does not quarantine, but it does contact trace and make calls when the health department determines someone should be sent home.
He believes the school district got better at contact tracing as the year went on. The district tried to follow guidelines as they were updated.
Stegman noted the health department never threatened the district, and they tried to be partners.
Other COVID-19 protocols included parents being encouraged to monitor their children for COVID-19 symptoms. Students who feel sick or have quarantine orders should not report to school until they are cleared of any COVID-19 indicators. A parent daily symptom check list is provided in Trenton R-9’s Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan, which is available on the district’s website.
Stegman mentioned the district had received a few requests for virtual instruction, but the district will not offer full-time virtual instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. However, that does not mean some virtual learning will not take place for quarantined students. The district will work with those students to complete work and will provide tutors for the duration of the quarantine.
Stegman noted each district building could “tweak” or modify the guidance as necessary to keep staff and students in school and safe. Trenton R-9 reserves the right to modify and adopt additional protocols when and if there is a further resurgence of COVID-19 and/or new orders are issued by the state or other governing entities.
Stegman commented that if things went “haywire” at some point during the year, the board may need to convene and go over guidance. He hopes we are on the “back end” of the pandemic.
Board Member Melissa King commented that she felt the board was not involved a lot with COVID-19 decisions in the last year, and she thinks the board should be more involved this year. She said parents did not think they were being listened to. She thought the policies got more clear by the end of last school year.
King wants to take quarantines seriously and said some families had 11 quarantines. She wondered if they were all necessary and noted things like that can wear on a student’s mental health.
Stegman commented many of the quarantines involving a large number of students at the beginning of the school year last year happened due to activities outside of the district.
Board Member Marcie Cutsinger said she appreciated Stegman saying the district and board learned from their mistakes last year. Stegman said that decisions the district and board made were not mistakes at the time.
Cutsinger noted that different health departments interpret things differently when it comes to the pandemic.
Vice President Brandon Gibler asked if there were written contact tracing guidelines for the district. After Stegman said there were not, Gibler said he thought Trenton R-9 should have them, but he knows each case is different.
Board Member Bill Miller agreed that there should be a basis, so the public knows.
King said she got a lot of questions about what the district is doing, and she wanted to know why it could not just create something like that. Stegman responded that the district would have to contact health officials.
King pointed out that people were threatening to leave to go to other districts.
Trenton High School Principal Kasey Bailey interjected that he thinks the school district was the only entity in the county asked to do its own contact tracing.
Board Member Andy Burress mentioned that guidelines for being considered a close contact have been changed from being around someone within six feet for 15 minutes to three feet and zero minutes.
Stegman noted that guidelines currently say that if students are quarantined they can still be in class if they wear masks and do not have symptoms.
The board discussed building use. Board President Dorothy Taul reported the schools were closed to all outside activities last year. She believes that the way things are now, it would be okay to open buildings again.
Board Secretary Susan Leeper said now that the performing arts center is open at Trenton High School, the district is receiving requests to use it.
There was also discussion of leave policy. Stegman reported some districts added 80 hours of leave for COVID-19 after a federal program, called the Families First American Response Act, last school year ended in December.
Some places are differentiating between employees who go out of state and become sick and those who are vaccinated and try not to get sick. Burress said he thought things should be treated the same for everyone whether someone was vaccinated or not.
Gibler said he would not be opposed to having something that was like the Families First American Response Act implemented for Trenton R-9.
It was noted that if something like that was implemented, it would involve employees who test positive. Those who are on close contact lists would still come to work if they were asymptomatic because the board previously voted to make employees essential workers.
Stegman reported the district’s reopening plan was posted online, and its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief 3 funds plan is under development. The district could receive $2.6 million. Twenty percent of the funds are targeted toward learning loss and could involve tutoring, counseling, and research-based programs such as iReady, IXL, and Big Ideas Math.
A committee is being formed to review Trenton R-9’s ESSER 3 plan once administration completes it. Parents, students, and board members could be involved. King, Gibler, Burress, and Miller volunteered to be added to the committee.
Stegman noted school districts are encouraged to apply for ESSER 3 funds, and no district has received funds yet.
He said ESSER 2 funds were used for a camera system and the SafeDefend system for the district. He explained the camera system and locks are almost done. Identification cards and proximity keys will take a while. Involving SafeDefend, the district is waiting on back-ordered microchips. Wiring for that project is underway.
Stegman reported the stage floor had damage, and work is scheduled for the middle of September. The top layer will be replaced as well as some of the middle layer.
He also reported classroom trust funds can be deposited into Fund 4, which is the Capital Projects Fund, up to the 2009-2010 amount of $410,876. That will help with moving some of the district’s unrestricted funds to the Capital Projects Fund.
Stegman added that the unrestricted funds for July was 38.12% or $4,377,746.05. He said that was up more than anticipated, so it is a good thing.
The Missouri School Boards Association Conference will be in Kansas City November 2nd through 7th. School board members can still sign up to attend.
The MSBA Spring Regional Meeting will be in Trenton April 13th, 2022 at 6 o’clock in the evening. It is to involve networking with board members from the nine North Central Missouri counties, a legislative update, school district best practices, a scholarship announcement, and dinner.
Stegman mentioned critical race theory has been talked about a lot lately, but a survey showed only three districts in Missouri are using it.
A handout he provided from the MSBA explains critical race theory originated in the 1970s and was an analytical tool for law students to examine the impact of historical and present-day racism on the legal system and public policies. It is primarily used by higher education in the study of law, psychology, and sociology. It is not the same thing as educational equity, as educational equity is a kindergarten through 12th grade term referring to federal and state policies and requirements.
School principals reported when open houses will be for their buildings.
The one for Rissler Elementary School will be August 19th from 5 to 6 o’clock in the evening. Students and parents can bring supplies to classrooms and meet teachers. There will also be a SeeSaw sign up station and a bus sign up station.
An open house for fifth graders will be at Trenton Middle School August 17th from 3:30 to 6:30. Student information will be available in lockers. Students are asked to come with their locker number and combination, which can be found on the student or parent portal.
An open house for sixth through eighth graders will be at TMS August 19th from 3:30 to 6:30. Principal Daniel Gott noted the start time was changed to allow more time for students to attend. Student information will be available in lockers. Students should come with their locker number and combination, which can be found on the student or parent portal.
Trenton High School will hold an open house August 17th from 5:30 to 7 o’clock.
The first day of school for Trenton R-9 is August 24th.
The Trenton R-9 Board of Education set the tax rate at a special meeting August 10th before the regular meeting. The total rate was set at $4.4287. That included $3.5287 for the incidental fund and 90 cents for the debt service fund. This year’s tax levy is $.0152 higher than last year’s.
Superintendent Mike Stegman said the “good news” was the district’s assessed valuation increased this year to about $79,980,956. He noted it dropped last year and was $76,146,522.
During the regular meeting, the board approved Jason Hostetler to fill an open spot on the board left by Corey Leeper resigning. Board Secretary Susan Leeper swore in Hostetler after the board interviewed him.
In answering questions from board members, Hostetler said he has young children and felt a need to serve the community. He is self-employed, so he believes he will have the time to serve on the board. He had no previous experience serving on a board.
President Dorothy Taul reported the board had a difficult time finding someone interested in filling the vacancy. She contacted multiple people, and Hostetler said he would be interested.
He will fill the term until the April election.
The board approved setting the Trenton High School graduation date as May 14th. The ceremony will be held at C. F. Russell Stadium at 7:30 that night. If there is inclement weather, the ceremony will be moved into the THS gym at the same date and time.
THS Principal Kasey Bailey reported he had not yet received any requests for early graduation or part-time attendance.
The board approved transferring the Frank M. Drake Trust to the Grundy County Jewett Norris Library Board to manage.
Stegman reported the trust said that after 10 years of Trenton R-9 managing it, it should be turned over to the library. Secretary Susan Leeper commented that the school district has managed it for as long as she has been involved with the district.
Stegman noted that each year the school board wondered why it was continuing to manage the trust. The library board and district administration believed the trust should be transferred to the library for management.
Rissler Elementary School handbook revisions were approved. They included updating the grading scale to reflect current grade card information and specified grade levels for each scale. Rissler Principal Susan Gott said the letter grade scale did not change; she just added the grade levels for clarification. She also removed 4 from the grading scale for kindergarten through second grade because it was not used on grade cards.
The board approved, on a vote of five to two, a prom sponsor position change involving extra duty pay. The prom sponsor was raised from a Tier 8 position at $400 per year to Tier 6, which Bailey noted has a basic one-year level of $1,500.
He said the current sponsor, Lori Duff, puts in “quite a bit of time.” He acknowledged some of the work was done during Pride Time with students, and other work was done outside of the school day with and without students. He was not sure how long Duff had been in that position.
Board members Andy Burress and Marcie Cutsinger voted no to the change in pay. Board members voting yes were Taul, Vice President Brandon Gibler, Melissa King, Bill Miller, and Hostetler.
The board approved a grant application request from Trenton Middle School Family and Consumer Science Teacher Joy Bettis for a GEC Community Foundation grant. The $1,000 grant would allow 20 Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America students to attend the Show-Me Leadership Conference at Worlds of Fun of Kansas City on October 2nd.
Missouri School Boards Association policy updates were adopted. They involved multiple topics, including illegal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; the use of tobacco and vaping products; board officers; the payment process; student transportation services; hazardous materials; illness and injury response prevention; and the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program.
Stegman noted the updates mainly cleaned up policies.
He explained MOCAP was offered to every student in the state, and if a student qualifies, the district helps get him or her enrolled. The district can deny the virtual courses for a student if it feels they are not in the student’s best interest, or he or she does not qualify.
The board adopted the updated Missouri State Plan for Special Education, the Local Compliance Plan, and the Conflict of Interest Policy. The Annual Secretary of the Board Report was approved.
A closed session was held for personnel.