September 27, 2020

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

Activities Director’s job made more difficult by COVID-19 restrictions

If you think you’ve got a tough job, imagine the task assigned to West Central Area Activities Director Jacob Foslien. Foslien has been trying to set up complicated schedules for extra-curricular activities for West Central Area students, in the era of COVID-19 when things can change daily, or even hourly. 

For instance, just a month ago, WCA, as well as all other Minnesota schools were informed there would be no football or volleyball this fall. Scratch those schedules.  Girls tennis and cross country are permitted, but with restrictions. Modify those schedules. Not to mention new rules for everything from bussing to practices, which rooms can be used and how they can be used, fees that can be charged, or not, not to mention the dozens of kids who want to be involved in Junior Varsity and Junior High activities.

Foslien presented his latest plan at the WCA School Board meeting Wednesday morning. He said there are seven WCA girls in the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta/West Central Area girls tennis team, and over 40 boys and girls in the WCA Cross Country team. The tennis team is coached by Britney House, assistant coach is Jaclyn Kramer, and the Cross Country team is coached by head coach John Van Kempen and assistant Austin Hanson.

Practices started August 17, and schedules are still being finalized.

Practices are allowed for typical fall sports, including football and volleyball, from October 5 through October 24, although their seasons will start in March. These practices are for coaches to connect with student athletes, and provide sport-specific training and instruction. There can be no tryouts, scrimmages, jamborees, competitions or captain’s practices. Foslien is talking to fall coaches to see if they are interested. Winter sports: boys and girls basketball and wrestling, cannot start practices  yet.

The board passed reduced activity fees for 9-12 cross county and girls tennis of $76, reflecting a 20 percent reduction in those activities.

Foslien said he and coaches are looking at developing a new weight room and open gym policy that would work following social distancing and masking guidelines, and benefits vs risks/drawbacks from a safety perspective.

Morning practices are not allowed at this time.

A Junior High girls basketball season is scheduled to start on October 19, but Foslien said he is waiting for the Minnesota State High School League, which meets in October, for direction on this activity. Varsity winter sports will also be decided by the MSHSL at that time.

Busses are allowed to run, only at 50 percent capacity. At WCA, this would be approximately 38 students. Therefore, for away tennis meets, WCA will be using its own bus to transport students, while Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta uses their own bus.

There will be no 6:00 p.m. late bus from the Secondary School at this time.

Foslien recommended WCA Corporate Sponsors not be asked for a financial contribution this year, although their status will remain active. He said the sponsors are already doing all they can for the communities.

A new football scoreboard has been installed, but is not quite wired up yet.

Administrative Reports

Superintendent Dale Hogie commented that he was happy there were ten candidates for four positions on the school board, saying it showed the community was involved in their school. He said the administration is working with moderator Deb Hengel to set up a candidate forum sometime in October. It will take some creative thinking to make the forum COVID-19 safe.

He said the school district has settled on a hybrid model for learning, in which all students will be in their classrooms Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, unless parents are uncomfortable with that and they can take an on line learning option, in which students can watch classes on line in real time. On Wednesdays, the school will switch to distance learning. Hogie said WCA is well equipped and ready for a hybrid model of learning.

“Although the infection numbers have been steady, in Grant County, for several days, the State puts out a new report every Wednesday and in a county with 6,000 people it doesn’t take very many infections to change things.”

Hogie said choir classes will meet in the larger band room where they can sing safely, if they all face in the same direction. The band will meet on stage, where they can spread out, and the band director is looking into masks designed for horn players.

Hogie added that WCA will be receiving around $200,000 in CARES Act funds from the State and County for use in COVID-19 related expenses. He said it is not enough to accomplish all that is needed to be done, but he would be working with Business Manager Diane Powers to prioritize needs.

Buildings and Grounds Director Pete Amundson reported that his crew is busy helping teachers space desks to comply with social distancing and otherwise getting classrooms ready. The custodial crew plans to disinfect the school buildings daily, following the school day, and spend most of Wednesday taking care of their regular duties.

Amundson reported that all boilers have passed their annual internal inspection.

Other business

The board accepted resignations from paraprofessional Michelle Toso, Administrative assistant Nicole Hanson, assistant cook/dishwasher, Michelle Petersen, and Secondary School custodian Aleaiah Garza, and six weeks leave for Megan Holmes.

The board accepted a low bid for snow removal for the secondary school from Grow Green. They received and accepted only one milk bid that was a 15 percent increase from last year, and bread bid from Bimbo Bakeries for the same amount as last year.