St. Maries School District students will be back in class this fall but with a shortened schedule.

The Trustees approved the district’s pandemic school reentry plan Aug. 10, which calls for students to attend class four days per week and the school day to end at 1:30 p.m. The limited schedule will be reassessed at the end of the fall semester.

Superintendent Alica Holthaus said the goal was consistency for staff, students and parents.

“Parents need consistency especially with children in multiple schools,” Ms. Holthaus said.

District administrators, staff and parents cr

that having each school on a different plan was overly complex. Under the current plan in-class learning, blended and online learning options will be available.

The four-day schedule allows teachers to develop and distribute blended learning plans while meeting contractual obligations that dictate a certain number of hours for teacher preparation, according to Ms. Holthaus.

The Monday-Thursday schedule will also allow for smaller class sizes and give maintenance time to sanitize the building without students present.

Face coverings will not be required of students or staff.

“Masks for staff are expected not mandated,” Ms. Holthaus said. “For students they are highly encouraged.”

The district is asking that parents check the health of their children each morning. However, the district will accommodate parents who are unable to meet the request.

“We’ll ask parents to check the health of students every day. Parents who can’t do that because they are already at the mill when they go to school—we will arrange to do it as soon as (students) arrive,” Ms. Holthaus said.

An online-only option for school through IDLA is available to students. Parents can arrange the online option by contacting the district office. The IDLA program is a semester long commitment Ms. Holthaus said.

Athletics are tentatively scheduled to begin Sept. 10. The board of trustees approved athletics to start Sept. 10, on the condition that a special meeting is held the last week of August to reevaluate.

Administrators, trustees and parents all expressed concern regarding athletics.

Parent Shenelle Pugh said she wanted her children back in school but did not believe sports was a necessity.

“My personal belief is we have to go back to school. I don’t think sports are a necessity. I don’t think we can do sports safely,” Ms. Pugh said.

Clark Grogan said he understood concerns regarding sports but wanted to see as normal a year as possible.

“I think these kids need as much normalcy as they can get,” Mr. Grogan said.

For administrators and trustees the concern is sports could lead to closing school if it led to an outbreak of COVID-19.

“Our goal needs to be getting kids back in school,” Trustee Pete Dirlam said. “You cannot teach these kids through a computer.”

Ms. Holthaus also took time at the meeting to address a few rumors she heard from parents ranging from recess concerns to secret immunization programs.

“We will have recess. You’d be crazy not to have recess… kids need exercise,” Ms. Holthaus said. “We will not kidnap your sick child to be sent to a special school to be immunized.”

Ms. Holthaus also said that personal preference would be respected regarding hand sanitizer.

“If a child does not want hand sanitizer we will not put it on them. Some people feel very strongly about chemicals. That said, good hand washing is critical,” Ms. Holthaus said.

The Trustees also addressed issues outside of the school reentry plan.

The district received one bid from Meadow Gold for milk distribution. The cost of milk will increase 10 cents per pint to 45 cents.

Ms. Holthaus attributed the cost increase to supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic earlier this year.

The board approved acceptance of the Meadow Gold bid.

Classified staff wages will be frozen in anticipation of state reductions to funding. In May, Gov. Brad Little announced a $99 million cut in school funding next year due to COVID-19.

The district was able to maintain insurance coverage for staff by freezing wages according to Ms. Holthaus.

The St. Maries Middle School counselor position was approved for reclassification as the St. Maries Middle School College and Career Ready Advisor. The change in title allows the district to hire for the position based on a broader range of certifications and a wider applicant pool according to Ms. Holthaus.

The board approved the emergency hire of Thomas James Blackwell as the college and career ready advisor.

Regarding busing: school safety routes, required turn-arounds and non-transportation zones were all approved.

The next regularly scheduled board of trustee meeting is scheduled for September 21, 2020, 5:30 p.m.

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