By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

A good chunk of the Spring Grove School District’s regular meeting on Monday, July 20 was spent talking about a draft of COVID-19 measures the school would take in order to protect students, staff and administration. 

Though it was just a draft and not finalized, a large majority of the plan was laid out nearly step by step. 

“We are very fortunate in Spring Grove that all of our kids can come back in scenario one and two,” Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said. “We have enough room to maintain all the kids in the building and respect the fire marshal’s capacity.”

Scenario one and two are in-person learing where a majority of students are back in school or the school implements a hybrid model between in-person learning and distance learning. That guidance is expected Thursday, July 30.  

Things will be done a little differently this year due to the pandemic. Udstuen said administration is looking at class sizes of 16 kids with one teacher for all grades. Families whose children can’t come back, like those with health issues, will have an option of online learning. 

The same teacher will remain throughout the year with the same group of kids to provide a sense of routine and repetition, even if the school switches to distance learning. This also allows for parents to connect with one teacher and to keep that circle of contact as close as possible, Udstuen said. 

Another feature the district is working on is hosting as many classes outside as possible and as long as weather permits. 

The district also talked about screening procedures before entering the building, staggered arrival times, transportation changes, cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Much of the plan has not been finalized yet and will not be until the district receives guidance from the state. 

In regards to cleaning and disinfecting, the chemicals used are E14 and E22, which is close to hydrogen peroxide, Facilities Head Brent Messner said. The amount has to be over 11% to kill the virus and the school’s products are 13%. Safety data sheets will be available in the final plan. 

Common areas and high frequency touch areas will be cleaned three times a day, including bathrooms, while the main office and general classrooms will be cleaned once a day, along with the gymnasium and playground.

As for suspected or confirmed cases of COVID, the school’s plan is laid out step by step. The student will be isolated until a parent or guardian comes to pick them up, the classroom will be vacated, cleaned and disinfected. The school will also consult with Houston County Public Health. 

At this point, all staff was looking forward to coming back, Udstuen relayed. She added the district may have to hire a full-time temporary employee to help maintenance, but no official decision was made to hire another position. 

Concerning lunch, meals will most likely be delivered to classrooms instead of students congregating in the cafeteria. 

“We are planning for something that’s so different from what we’ve ever done,” Udstuen said. 

Among the administration, Udstuen said she was handling the safety and service part, while new principal Luke Kjelland would focus on student mental health, students’ well-being, equity and school climate and transformational leader Gina Meinertz will oversee student success, instruction and academic content. 

Most likely when the school year starts, outside groups will not be allowed in, the board agreed. 

Finally, Udstuen presented specific goals for the upcoming school year, which include: keep students and staff physically safe, care for the social-emotional needs of students and staff, keep learning the priority to create a strong learning environment no matter the delivery model, reduce inequities by meeting the learning needs of students and engage in complex work that will require the collective efforts of many. 

In a related vote, the board approved a resolution suspending school district policies that conflict with emergency executive orders, federal and state waivers, or other federal or state legislative or legal actions related to COVID-19. 

Non-COVID related news

In news that didn’t center around the pandemic, the board approved annual decisions such as bonding, hot lunch prices, breakfast prices, out-of-state tuition rates, bank depositories, review of policies, membership contracts, participation fees, athletic fees, activity fees, athletic admission prices and board salaries, all of which was no change from the previous year. 

The board tabled the decision on the official newspaper, but did approve the milk and bread bid and the 10 year Long-Term Facilities Maintenance plan. They also hired Jim Cunningham as a cook. 

Graduation 

The graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 will still take place on Aug. 7, at 7 p.m., most likely at the football field. Masks will be required to attend the ceremony and must be worn for the duration of the ceremony. 

Each graduate will be seated with their families, social distanced from other family groups. Families are welcome to bring their own chairs. Hand sanitizer and face masks will be provided. Face shields will be worn by senior speakers. 

The other option available to the board would be a parking lot graduation where families would be in vehicles. Only families of graduates are allowed to attend. The public is not allowed to attend, but can watch via Facebook Live.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove School Board will be Aug. 17, at 7 p.m. Board members, administration and business manager will meet in person while the public can listen to the meeting via Google Meet.

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