FLA School Board approves updates to the district’s face-covering policy

In a release to parents Superintendent Steve Massey announced that the first round of COVID-19 vaccines, which have been made available to district staff, will be administered during a vaccination event on Feb. 12. Because of this, all elementary students will have a distance learning day on that day.  This will not affect secondary students as they will continue with their regular distance learning Friday schedule. 

In a second release from Massey on Feb. 8, it was announced that the district had been informed by the clinic working Washington County Public Health that the county did not receive all of the vaccinations that they originally predicted. 

While moving to distance learning for the day was to allow staff to get to the vaccine site without creating challenges for staff duty coverage, the district will now prioritize elementary staff with the available spots they do have and continue with the distance day as originally planned.

The second dose of the vaccine that staff will receive will be administered over spring break and will not cause any interruptions with the school’s current schedule. 

Massey closed the release to parents by explaining the benefits of vaccinating staff and calling attention to staffing issues the district has had. 

“As you may know, staffing has been one of the largest challenges for our school system during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Massey said. “A shortage of substitute staff, along with increased COVID-related absences, have made it challenging at times to continue providing uninterrupted services to our students. This opportunity to vaccinate large numbers of our staff has the potential to ease many of those staffing concerns and allow us to provide more consistent services to your students throughout the rest of the year.”

District updates

The Forest Lake Area School Board approved the amending of the district’s face-covering policy. 

In her report from the Policy Committee, member Kate Luthner shared that they had updated several different policies from over the years and added some new ones. The more notable change to policy that the district will see is an update to its face-covering policy. 

“We are amending our face-covering policy,” Luthner said. “Hopefully, the change that now says reflecting state changes will mean we don’t have to change it every month, and hopefully it goes away sooner rather than later, but until that time, the policy will prevent anybody from wondering what the rules of Forest Lake are.”

The changes that the policy will see are in regards to the language around the governor’s executive order that was made over the summer. Instead of referencing that order, the policy now will comply with all state, federal, and local regulations, which includes executive orders. 

The district’s policy mandates that all staff, students, and any visitor or person who enters a district building will be required to wear a face covering. This policy extends to all indoor facilities as well as any outdoor areas where 6-feet social distancing guidelines cannot be observed. 

The update to the policy was voted on by the school board and approved unanimously with little discussion. 

Member Alex Keto gave a brief report on the construction projects that the district has going on. The sports complex project that the district will begin hearing bids on soon is on schedule. The demolition of parts of the district’s Central Learning Center, which has not been in use since mid-2018, is ahead of schedule as well as road closures surrounding the school starting on Feb. 8 and construction starting sometime after that. 

According to Keto’s report, the district is also looking at upgrading the refrigeration systems that are present in the Forest Lake ice arena. The arena, which is home to the Forest Lake girls and boys hockey teams, had old refrigeration units upon the purchase of the arena, and are now needing to be upgraded. Keto also shared that the buildings and grounds committee is also beginning to start looking at working on roofing and parking lots of schools that are in need of repair or an upgrade throughout the district.  

Superintendent’s report

Massey opened his report by sharing the district’s involvement in Black History Month. The district has shared curriculum and resources with students and there will be a celebration event sponsored by the High School Black Student Union on Feb 26. He also touched on the fact that this must be an ongoing learning experience for students. 

Massey also noted the district’s reopening plan, which was released at the beginning of January, has been completed as the remaining students, grade 9, joined their peers in the classroom on Feb. 8.

The two-week county case counts that the district receives to monitor the pandemic is on a two-week delay. The report this week was for Jan. 10-23. One thing that Massey and the school board discussed was the lack of the anticipated spike in cases following both Christmas and New Year holidays.

“We didn’t see the spike that we were warned about,” Massey said. “People followed guidance, advice, and mitigation efforts. We are seeing the fruits of that.” 

The district has also announced its dates for summer school: K-12 will begin on Monday, June 21, and go through July 30 from 7:45 to 11:45 a.m. each day. Grades K-3 will be taught at Wyoming Elementary School and 4-12 will be taught at the education center.

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