R-1 proactive in dealing with COVID-19, keeping students healthy, safe

By Laura Schiermeier, Staff Writer
Posted 10/15/20

VIENNA — The shifting landscape of the Covid-19 coronavirus is challenging for individual families to handle safely, and has proven to be especially demanding for organizations that require a …

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R-1 proactive in dealing with COVID-19, keeping students healthy, safe

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VIENNA — The shifting landscape of the Covid-19 coronavirus is challenging for individual families to handle safely, and has proven to be especially demanding for organizations that require a large group of people to come together on a nearly daily basis.

This is what our school districts are dealing with. They are educating county students, but always in the background looms the virus and all that it might entail.

At the September Maries R-1 School Board meeting, Superintendent Mark Parker gave a report to the board how he feels “we have been blessed so far with COVID and how our community has stepped up to be proactive in helping to keep our kids healthy and safe.”

The administration reacted to one cafeteria worker testing positive for the virus, which sent all of the cafeteria workers home to quarantine. But, cafeteria substitutes were found and they worked through it. Early last week, after this school board meeting was held, a high school student was reported to have tested positive. Persons who had been in close contact with the individual were notified and safety precautions taken. This is an ever-changing situation that the district is handling on a day-to-day basis.

Parker reported to the school board members Maries R-1 has had 85 entires into its Student Covid Logs who have either exhibited symptoms or have been in close contact with a student with symptoms. He said with those entries they have isolated 15 to 20 students in the school nurse’s Covid isolation room who were sent home for symptoms. The school has had students tested but until last week, all the tests had come back negative.

Parker told the board, at the time he was making the report to them, they were waiting on three results to come back. “We continue to take preventive steps to avoid increases in the number of Covid cases.”

Board President Vicki Bade asked if the school district has a Covid team. Parker said it’s the administrative team of the nurse, Parker, the principals, Special Education Director Joe Edwards and the counselors Natalie Martin and Alyssa  Smith. He said they met the day they received the news about the positive cafeteria worker.

There are only a few R-1 students who are doing virtual learning, two in the middle school, three in the high school, and three in the elementary school. Parker said these students are getting their work turned in. The primary concern is poor internet connections. Also side conversations or whatever is going on at the student’s home can be distractions to learning. They are trying to address these concerns. Parker said speaking with other administrators, he learned a nearby school in an adjoining county plans to end virtual learning at the end of the quarter because the students aren’t doing very well. Parker said he does not want to be switching back and forth from in-seat learning at school to virtual learning at home.

In other action at the September R-1 school board meeting:

• Parker updated the board on the condition of Bus 10. For the past two years they have struggled to keep buses 10 (1990 model) and 23 (1999 model) on the road. Currently Bus 23 is running for routes, but Bus 10 has the transmission out. The estimates he received are about $2,500 to $3,500 to repair it. Before fixing it, he would like to see if he can find a possible replacement to save the district money in future repairs. Both 23 and 10 are getting high in mileage and they seem to be getting repaired more than they are on the road, he told the school board members. He’s been looking at used buses and thinks he can get two for $14,000 to $16,000. The newer buses could to used as trip buses.

• The board approved the substitute teacher list, which listed 13 individuals. The school can always use more substitute teachers. Board Vice President Penny Schoene said the law has changed about substitute teachers as they no longer must have 60 college hours in order to be a substitute. Parker said this is true. They have to take a 20 hour class online and get a background check.

• In the financial report, Parker reported on state revenues received in September. The district received $96,372.05 in Formula/CTF revenues, which is down $28,329.03 in the two-year average. Prop C revenues were $38,821.30, an increase in the two-year average of $3,387.94. Transportation revenue from the state continues to trend downward as Maries R-1 received $6,004, down $825.50 in the two-year average.

Electricity expenses for the month were $7,187.40, which is $1,000 less than September last year, and $2,000 less than the month two years ago. Parker thinks it the new LED fixtures and bulbs and better maintained air conditioning units. Either way, it is saving the school district money.

He school’s budget package and message can be found on the school’s website. For this year’s budget, a minimal approach toward spending was taken as the outlook of state and local revenues are uncertain due to the effects of the Covid-19 throughout the community and state. The goal is to maintain an unrestricted fund balance of about 20 to 25 percent while funding improvements in instructional resources, facilities, and competitive staff compensation.

At the meeting, Bade said she would like the budget added to old business on next months agenda. She thinks the budget needs to be reviewed every month or quarter.

• Parker reported receiving payments from the CARES Act money Maries County received in the amounts of about $20,000 and $24,000. Another request is going to be made as well.

Board members present at the meeting were David Long, Cindy Petershagen, David Garro, Schoene, Bade, and Mike Kleffner.

Elementary staff members present were Rachel Johnson, Kaylee Karnes, Alyssa Smith, and Mandy Mickem.

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