School Board told to expect additional relief funds, considers quarantine changes as students return to in-person learning

Taylor Scott, Managing Editor

River Valley School District Office in Spring Green

The River Valley School Board met for a regular meeting at the Middle School library and virtually Jan. 14. At the meeting, the board heard several policy changes, including shortening the required direct exposure COVID-19 quarantine to 10 days, from 14.

District Administrator Loren Glasbrenner provided an update on the second round of Elementary and Second School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. The district received around $160,000 in the first round of ESSER. For ESSER II, the district was told to expect around four times the amount that they received the first time around, according to Glasbrenner. This round will provide special flexibility, focusing on addressing learning loss, school facility repairs and maintenance, continuity and more. Glasbrenner asked the board to consider programming that could be put in place and possible hiring that could be made using the funds. 

Glasbrenner also shared that the district will hold state standardized academic testing this spring and that he expects more information soon on getting teachers vaccinated from the county. 

The board heard from Activities Director Jaime Hegland, who shared a recommendation from Sauk Prairie Healthcare regarding students athletes who have tested positive for COVID-19. The district will require student athletes that have recovered from COVID-19 to meet with the district’s athletic trainer to do an assessment. The information provided by Sauk Prairie Healthcare outlined concerns regarding possible heart damage in young athletes that have since recovered from COVID-19.  

Students returned on Jan. 11 to in-person instruction, with roughly 20% opting to continue virtual instruction under the district’s hybrid model, according to Glasbrenner. High School Principal Darby Blakley and Elementary School Principal Carla Peterson both shared that there has been an increase in families discussing switching back to in-person instruction.

The board also added bus accidents to the district’s ‘Crisis Plan Binder’ in light of a recent incident and took up the annual approval of school sports co-ops, with gymnastics co-op with  Barneveld and swimming co-op with Richland Center again approved for the next school year. 

The board then heard various policy recommendations, first taking up the district’s policy on ‘Wearing Masks and Face Coverings’ and decided to make no changes at this time, continuing to require face masks. 

The board then took up a second reading of the following policies:

— The naming of facilities, having condensed the policy from last meeting. 
—No new limits on open enrollment.
—Minor changes to entity names and updating policy language to include electronic equipment regarding fees.

The board then took up a first reading on the following policies:

—Shortening the required direct exposure COVID-19 quarantine for students and staff from 14 days to 10.
—Streamlining the process to remove Internet filters on district electronic equipment.
—Cleaned up facilities maintenance language.
—Outlined new ‘Building and Grounds Inspection Procedures’.

The board then discussed workflow and processes to ensure students and staff have consistent access to working laptops/chromebooks. Glasbrenner looked at programs the Platteville school district has, including a program where students get hands-on experience fixing Chromebooks and is looking into what the district should implement for next year.

Finally, the board extended Family First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) leave for staff to the end of the school year, from the previous end date of Dec. 2020.

Special Meeting

The board held a special meeting on the evening of Jan. 18 as well. The meeting almost immediately went into closed session under Wisconsin Statute 19.85(1)(c) for the specific purpose of “Discussing a Leave of Absence for and Separation of an Employee and the Terms Thereof.”

After reconvening into open session, the board approved a leave of absence through the end of the 2020-2021 school year regarding high school teacher Mike Hill and severance at the end of the school year with terms discussed in closed session.