Only one new COVID-19 case was confirmed during the week of Feb. 1-7 at North Branch Area Public Schools.

During the school board meeting Feb. 11, Superintendent Sara Paul explained COVID-19 screening opportunities are offered to staff every other Thursday.

“Staff are all encouraged to have the opportunity to be screened for COVID-19 just to make sure that we are maintaining a safe learning environment,” Paul said. “Vaccines, there is a statewide pilot that continues to take place across the state. But that’s been a little bit of a hit-and-miss experience for our staff. They have to drive quite a ways to take advantage of those opportunities, and we’re still very appreciative of the work that they’re doing to make that happen.

“We’ve been extraordinarily impressed by the county, even though they are only to give short notice to staff for us to provide those vaccination opportunities. The process is very streamlined, and we can’t be more appreciative than the way they’ve made sure a single vaccine has not gone to waste. It’s a personal choice for our staff; it’s not required by North Branch Area Public Schools. Those staff members who are wanting access to the vaccine are really getting a lot of those opportunities. So we are very thankful for both the state pilot program and from our county departments,” Paul added.

As a district, Paul said there have been very few confirmed cases of COVID-19. She noted, for the week of Feb. 1-7, the district had one confirmed case among students and none among staff. She said as a result of the one confirmed case, five close contacts were identified, but only one of the close contacts had occurred in the school.

“So our job of creating a safe learning environment is going exceptionally well, and that’s a credit to all of our students and staff for following our safety protocols,” Paul said.

Update on safe learning

Paul updated the board on the flexible learning continuum being used by the district.

“In particular, flexibility and choice continues to be something that our families are in great appreciation for, in terms of having a predictable opportunity to have chosen in-person learning or the distance learning academy, and how that’s really bringing out the best in learning for our students and connections with our families,” Paul said. “All of our K-through-eight students continue to be in school five days a week. Our high school students will return to five days per week at the trimester transition, and the Distance Learning Academy is continuing to provide quality options.”

Grant recipients

Paul was pleased to report that teachers Tracy Bowman, Mary Colvin, Pam Newbauer and Sara Schmidt were recently named North Branch Area Education Foundation classroom grant recipients.

“We are so grateful for our education foundation,” Paul said. “Even though they couldn’t have the big event that I’ve been hearing so much about and I can’t wait to attend, as we turn the corner with COVID here, they had a lot of mail in support for the foundation this year and they were able to award programs to four different teachers within our district that was in excess of $10,000,” Paul said. “And so a lot of excited teachers and students that are going to benefit from the generosity of our foundation.”

High school redesign

Paul explained the high school redesign is focused on personalized learning and expanding partnerships. She noted the high school has added 14 new career and teach ed courses for next year as well as four new college-level courses.

“Our high school redesign work, we’ve been doing things different. We’re innovating this year,” Paul said. “We’re taking COVID and we’re saying, ‘we’re going to take this to help us take things to the next level,’ and we were so excited in all that we shared with you guys about what’s been happening with our high school redesign.”

Paul thanked Director of Teaching and Learning David Treichel for his


“I really want to give a lot of credit to David Treichel for really leading a process with our teachers and our administrative team at the high school to come up with how we’re really going to get these exciting opportunities into the hands of our students and families,” Paul said. “So an interactive registration guide was created. It has embedded videos that have staff communicating and telling about the uniqueness of what’s being offered in each of their departments. There were face-to-face sessions that our counselors led with our students to make sure they have information and knew how to use the registration guide and heard about the comprehensive offerings that they’re going to have available to them.”

Paul said two “Choose Your Adventure” information sessions were also recently held that gave families the chance to learn more about specific programs and offerings available to students.

“Hats off to really being about service to our students and families and finding ways to creatively bring them information about all of the new redesign work in a way that meets them where they were at and really personalize the registration experience for each and every student,” Paul said.

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