GALENA–As of right now, families in the Galena School District will have the option to return to school in person in mid-August or start the school year with remote learning.
During the Tuesday, July 21 meeting, the Galena School Board reviewed the district’s 26-page Return to School plan presented by Superintendent Tim Vincent, and unanimously approved the plan.
Vincent, noting the plan has been approved by the Jo Daviess County Health Department and acknowledging the constantly changing information, outlined the priorities of the plan: student and staff safety measures, health guidelines including social-emotional health, academic achievement and support for families.
Vincent explained the major components of the plan include a mask mandate, social distancing when possible, enhanced sanitation procedures, 50 people or less in a space; families choosing between remote learning or in-person learning; and a mirrored experience with remote and on-site choices remaining as identical as possible.
Based on a survey of parents before the mask mandate, Vincent projects 15 percent of students will do remote learning. He said that number could increase, and he plans to release another survey to gauge current thinking among parents. He said families will need to make a decision by Aug. 1.
“Families have to do what’s best for their students,” said Vincent.
Students will return or log on for their first day on Thursday, Aug. 20, a change from the original Aug. 19 start date, which will now be used for planning purposes. Both Aug. 20 and 21 will be early release days, allowing students to ease into the changes and staff to tweak what isn’t working. The first full day of classes will be Monday, Aug. 24.
The new superintendent said that the relaxed grading expectations and workload of the spring e-learning experience are gone. Students will be expected to receive five hours of instruction a day and grading expectations return in full force. He said parents choosing remote need to understand there will be substantially more work for students this fall compared to the spring experience and students will be held to the same standards as those attending in-person.
According to Vincent, teachers will use their laptop cameras to record classroom instruction.
Board president Tom Long expressed concern about the quality of those recordings, noting he attended one board committee meeting that was and found it incredibly difficult to understand what was taking place. Long suggested trial runs to ensure the students learning at home have the best experience possible.
Vincent noted as well that the plan will be tweaked as district officials gather data and find what works and what doesn’t.
“The idea is to really work with families,” he said.
A partial open campus has been discussed, Vincent said, noting that concept might work well for students in higher grade levels who might not need to attend every class in person but may want to attend others.
Cleaning protocols were highlighted as well. Vincent said there will be foam hand sanitizer stations and disinfecting wipes in every room, electrostatic sprayers for buildings, gloves, extra masks and gaiters, buses will be cleaned after every route and sprayed periodically and water bottles and masks are included on the school supply list.
Vincent emphasized as well that the district could move to full remote learning for any number of reasons including: a positive COVID test, executive order, the state reverting to Phase 3 of the reopening plan or local statistics or unforeseen circumstances.
Vincent said he plans to have the plan as a standing agenda item to update the board as the year progresses.
New York City band trip
Months after the cancelled spring break music department trip to New York City, the board formally agreed to reimburse parents for all out-of-pocket expenses.
Vincent explained to the board that the total cost of the trip was $84,043, and Tri-State Travel will provide the district with $40,762 in transferable payments for a future trip that should be used by the end of the 2021-22 school year.
So far, Tri-State has received $17,979 in refunds, $17,234 which will be refunded to the district. There are $8,500 in non-refundable expenses.
The $10,418 in fundraised money will basically balance out the non-refundable portion, Vincent said.
“This will alleviate the substantial accounting of managing travel credit for individual students and do right by the parents,” Vincent said in a memo to the board.
The board approved the following personnel matters:
•renewed the contract with Jill Muehleip, Galena Primary School principal, for the 2020-21 school year. Muehleip will receive a 3 percent increase, bringing her salary to $86,760.40.
•renewed the contract with Ben Soat, Galena Middle School principal, for the 2020-21 school year. Soat will receive a 3 percent increase, bringing his salary to $104,959.08.
•approved Dennis Wills as the district’s transportation director. Wills will receive a 3 percent increase. His salary is $49,452.34.
•hired Nikki Frank as the middle school cheerleading coach.
• approved a 15-cent increase to the bus driver wait time rate.
• approved the bus driver route time compensation matrix which includes an average increase of 1.7 percent.
•hired Darien Knight and Ashley Phillips as high school assistant volleyball coaches.
•approved high school and middle school class-activity sponsors for 2020-21.
In other business, the board:
•approved a business credit card through Apple River State Bank which will allow the district to receive 1 percent cash back on purchases.
•approved a contract with Access Business Systems for a color copier in each school office instead of buying printer cartridges for 46 individual printers throughout the district. This will save approximately $6,000 per year, according to Vincent.
•approved fees for the 2020-21 school year. Vincent recommended no increases.
•approved $1,000 Stauss loans for Sophia Heisler, Elisabeth Ludwig, Mackenzie Muehleip and Samantha Stoffregen.
•approved an amended 2020-21 school calendar with a remote planning day on Aug. 19 instead of the first day of school, early release days on Aug. 20 and 21 and swapping Veterans Day, when students will be in school, for Election Day, when they will not.
•accepted the milk bid from Prairie Farms.
•accepted the bread bid from Bimbo Bakeries.
•accepted food products bids from Kohl Wholesale, Performance Food Service and Sysco.
•approved the 2020-21 student-parent handbook.
•directed Vincent to prepare a tentative budget and place it on file for 30 days prior to approval.
•appointed Vincent as the district’s audit reviewer.
•appointed Vincent and Patti Murphy, secretary to the superintendent, at the district’s Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act officers.
•heard the first reading of an amendment to the district’s 403B Plan.
•met in closed session for personnel and litigation matters.