July 18, 2024

WCA dealing with COVID-19 uptick, possible mandates

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!

West Central Area Superintendent Dale Hogie reported on the latest COVID-19 numbers in the state and county. He said the current number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Grant County is similar to the number in November of 2020, which was the peak of infections in the county. He added that the previous low number in WCA schools is increasing somewhat but still fairly level.

“The state is allowing local control, as opposed to last year when the Governor used emergency powers to mandate masks and distance learning,” he said. “The state is, however, telling us we should require masks and vaccinations, and we are getting the nudge to do that.”

Hogie added, with our numbers, we don’t feel we need to do that.

“If things take a turn for the worst, we will rethink it.”

The Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) says, 257 school employees have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since August 2020 with 51 in ICU. One hundred and fifty-one students have been hospitalized with 20 in ICU. Eight school employees have died through August 2021 and two students have died. Eight more school employees have died in September through November 11, 2021.

The Minnesota Department of Health is urging school administrators and school boards to take more active steps to follow their recommendations, which include:

* Promoting vaccinations for anyone eligible for one including teachers, staff, parents, and children five years or older.

* Universal masking should be requires for students, teachers, staff, and guests.

* Physical Distancing of at least three feet between students in classrooms and six feet between adults and students.

*Staying home when sick should be required if students, teachers, or staff have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive, for at least ten days.

* Schools should implement a program for voluntary screening/testing of unvaccinated students, teachers, and staff.

*Schools should develop a plan to support contact tracing and enforce quarantine recommendations of local and state health officials.

*Improving ventilation to bring fresh air into schools.

*Schools should implement appropriate handwashing and respiratory etiquette  and ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of surfaces at schools.

On November 4, 2021, OSHA released its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)  that requires all employers with 100 or more employees “to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” But  last week, OSHA suspended enforcement of the ETS.

Hogie said if the state, or OSHA, implemented a vaccine mandate, it would cause a problem for districts like WCA because employees that do not comply would have to stay home.

“We are already short of substitute teachers, paras, and bus drivers” he said. “If this is implemented, it would really make things tough.”

As recommended by MSBA, WCA administration will begin collecting vaccination status information from our staff and begin planning for implementation.  MSBA is developing model policy for MN school districts so they will be ready to comply if the ETS actually does go into effect.

But so far, nothing has changed concerning WCA’s voluntary masking and vaccinations.

Food Services

Hogie reported that the school was still experiencing product shortages in their food services. They are receiving weekly deliveries from Henry’s out of Alexandria, to all three sites. A freezer trailer has been rented so larger quantities can be ordered when available.

“Michele Frykman and the other food service personnel have done well under the circumstances,” Hogie said.

Administrative Reports

Technology Coordinator Kevin McNamara reported that the wireless microphone in the gym broke down a couple of weeks past its warranty date.

“We will replace it with the same kind we are using at the football field and auditorium so we can borrow when needed.”

McNamara said the school is really getting a chance to see what the new lighting and sound system in the auditorium can do and it is pretty amazing.

Activities Director Jacob Foslien reported that fall sports at WCA have been very successful. The volleyball team had 20 wins, the tennis team made their first trip to the state tournament, and the football team is currently playing in the semi-finals of the state tournament.

“The buzz has been fun,” he said and thanked the many donors who have funded fan busses to state football games.

Building and Grounds Manager Chad Norenberg reported that a sewer pipe sprang a leak at WCA South in Kensington and the roof in one classroom leaks at the Secondary School. He said the roof was fixed in 2016, and he will check into the warranty.

Norenberg said there is a rash of vandalism going on at the Secondary School.  A light was shorted out in the boys locker room, there has been writing on the bathroom walls, and a partition damaged.

“We are trying to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

Secondary Principal Susan Knutson added that they are going through security camera footage, but there are some spots in the school that are not covered well.

“We need to address that,” she added.

The board accepted Mr. Hogie’s notice that he is not intending to pursue another contract with the district and will be retiring effective June 30, 2022.

“My early notification provides the best opportunity for the board to advertise for and select the next superintendent,” he said.

The board also accepted the resignation of assistant girls tennis coach Ms. Hoeper.

Find this content useful? Share it with your friends!