Highlights of SVSD – Board of Directors Meeting – Sep 9, 2021

[Guest Post by Linda Grez. Note: The Zoom meeting link initially didn’t work until a new link replaced it at 5:15, and the audio was lost for about 5 minutes in the middle of the meeting.]

The agenda and the Minutes of the 8.26.21 meeting were approved.  The two Student Representatives (Garner Brown and Madhumitha Gandhi) to the Board were sworn in.

Public Comment: Anna Sotela commended the board for handling difficult COVID decisions well.  She mentioned that the Two River school students are now located in the Freshman building, and their space is often filled with MSHS students who use the same building for many classes.

The Band Boosters donated two Sousaphones to the school worth $6500.

The Consent Agenda was passed, including the Personnel Action report (showing names of those hired & terminated and new open positions), Accounts Payables Vouchers Register, Gifts to the District, Enrollment report, Mount Si High School Replacement Project Change Order 26, and Bus Purchase report.

Student Reps:  Garner Brown gave a brief overview of the first 2 weeks of school.  Free lunch is appreciated and good food.  Masking has been pretty good with just a small number of students not wearing them over noses.  Social distancing has been somewhat mixed.  Attending class in person has been great, allowing students to connect with teachers, and it seems higher in quality than remote classes.  Social contact has been beneficial to see all your peers, not just an alphabetical subsection of them.   Looking forward to football games with the public.  

Madhu Gandhi, the new Student Rep, encouraged the high school to enact diversity and equity principles, as discussed in signage and other messaging around the schools.

Superintendent Report:

Dr. Gibbon has enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of students and staff as school has begun.  He thanked the Community Greeters (public safety, public officials) who welcomed students to schools.

COVID: The District’s Dashboard is live.  There have been no in-school transmissions documented.  The District hosted vaccination clinics.  A weekly COVID Testing program is in place for staff and students.  The Return to Learn program provided 10,000 test kits for use.  The Test to Stay program will allow students who have been exposed to stay in school if they test negative.

More Department of Health guidance is expected to come out next week.  All volunteers and contractors in schools also must be vaccinated.  The outdoor mask policy in crowds of over 500 is now in effect at football games. The District policy re: volunteers vs. brief visitors was clarified – volunteers must be vaccinated, show a negative test, or show an exemption by 10/18. Still, visitors staying 15 minutes or less do not need to prove vaccination or testing.

The high school Football game now has a 7:30 start time tomorrow due to the opposing team’s transportation shortage. The District had to delay the start of virtual learning programs – 160 students are now up and running.

He addressed the procedures for IEP conferences when students and parents are not vaccinated.  The options include doing the IEP conference via Zoom, doing it outside, or the parents can get a negative Covid test before attending.

Start of school report: 

7,000 students have started classes.  Dr. Gibbon commended the teachers, kitchen and transportation and other staff for their hard work. 

Enrollment is up, teachers and transportation have all stepped up to help.

Asst. Superintendent Ryan Stokes continued the start of school update, stating that enrollment projections were very close to actual (see attachment reports for enrollment details).  Due to increased online enrollment, there are fewer kids in buildings.

Asst. Superintendent Ginger Callison noted that schools have between 70-90% live (vs. online) students in schools.     

The Parent Partnership Program has enrollment over projections:  160 total. 

Kindergarten in-school numbers came in strong and first grade was still a bit low.

Long term, there’s a need to be prepared for loss of funding for the PPP option – the District is getting some funds now for online programs and District teacher staffing.   Some families intend to come back in person after vaccination is available for younger kids.

Elementary class sizes are 17-22, with 3 foot distancing long term better for preventing the spread of illness.

Dr. Gibbon attended a telephone conference with OSPI Director Rykdal, who said some districts are still suffering from loss of enrollment and projects that didn’t pan out.

Dr. Gibbon emphasized the need for grace as we work through operational challenges at the start of the year.

Operational changes due to Covid:

Transportation: driver shortage and changes causing initial days to be challenging.  He thanked the community for their understanding and patience.  There were also traffic problems with pick-ups, traffic lights out, buses running late.  Routes are still being adjusted.  There are 4 new drivers in training – they need 80 hours in the drivers’ seat before they can take students.  It will be 8-10 weeks till they are ready. There are 5 more driver applications under review.  

They are trying to schedule buses for trips for athletics and clubs. Meanwhile, some office staff are actually out doing driver training. Asst. Superintendent Stokes drove some of the TLC routes. Secretaries are still putting trips into the season calendar. They posted extra work opportunities for secretaries to print Smart-tags and to make arrangements to schedule trips.  They are working with the Athletics dept. To get transportation scheduled, so parents know by deadlines if parents need to plan to drive to events.

How full are buses?  Kindergartners started on Friday.  They don’t know yet, but some routes are definitely full, and they may move some routes around to cover more.

Any unvaccinated drivers who may not get vaccinated by the deadline of 10/18?  This is not known, but out of over 700 employees, only 120 regular staff haven’t yet reported their vaccination status, so they are over 80% already.  HR Executive Director Beth Porter is working with the unions and staff to be clear about the deadline.

Is there a driver substitute position (with CDL)?  Yes, 1.  Most drivers start as subs.  Now have we are missing 3 drivers, so it might be worthwhile to hire more subs.

HR is trying to aggressively process applications and match with needs – subs, trips, etc.  We can add that to the driver recruiting info. 

Student rep Garner: Can students leave early by skipping 2nd lunch at the end of the day?  They will ask Principal John Belcher.

Director Simpson commented that information is key for employees – and vaccination status is personal.  Can we share info regarding the potential loss of unemployment or health insurance benefits if they lose their job?  HR Beth Porter replied that the District made it clear they need an exemption or vaccination proof by 10/18.  They have not communicated about unemployment or other financial benefits.

Dr. Gibbon mentioned today’s Presidential order – all employers with 100 or more employees have to require vaccination or weekly testing.

Director Porter stated that they are aware of very few ready to leave their jobs.  Letters are going out on Monday, with a response required.  Unions have been very helpful in getting paperwork done.  She’s not concerned about a large number not meeting the 10/18 fully vaccinated deadline. 

Other Operational notes:

Budget – materials procurement has been a challenge.  Due to free lunch everywhere, there are delayed shipments of food products.  Staffing levels are very lean – custodial positions are still posted.  They have the budget to get the school grounds back in shape.  Food Services have managed the procurement challenges well. 

They are short-staffed at many schools.  Some items are not yet being stocked.   This has a snowball effect.  All foods are portioned out, so there are no salad bars.  They are using hard trays in elementary’s.  Kids are so excited to be back at school.

Scott Beebe – Executive Director of Digital Learning, gave a report.  The Personnel report showed he is leaving in October and Director Simpson thanked him for his work, especially home visits during Covid.  He has an opportunity to save commute time, so he is changing jobs.  President Johnson thanked him for the speedy help desk for families – he made a tremendous difference here.

The District Phone systems are upgraded.  They have closed 1,000 work orders.  They are short secondary computers – some came back broken.  Although they are covered by insurance, still parts are hard to come by.  They have 100 ordered.   There are 182 work orders open.  There was a weeklong professional development training with tech.  It had a K-12 emphasis – high school teachers helping Kindergarten teachers.  They had to order many chargers, 3,500 for elementary levels, in case we need to go virtual again, and they can’t take all the school charging carts apart.

Asst. Superintendent Schlodtfeld reported on work done in preparation for kids missing classes.  The Extended absence program will keep online classwork for catch-up consistent across classes, not forcing parents to seek other support.  This is not the Online Stride program but a District resource.

There’s a plan for learning options for quarantined kids.  All students will have access to Schoology, with videos that teach the lesson by their teacher in subjects.  Their teachers will grade and return any work and answer questions.  The Coaching team has done a lot of heavy lifting to prep for the program so teachers can respond to kids.  Every school will have the same program.   If Elementary students get sick, how will they address absences and missing day classes?  The materials are all asynchronous, so they can do it as they feel up to it.   They have identified what core lesson the kids need to know so teachers can cover that.   The District has made huge strides to standardize the lesson pacing so support to kids will be consistent.  Director Simpson commented that this will be great for all kids who have to be out sick. 

Asst. Sup. Schlodtfeld thanked the Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation, whose generous grants helped teachers make their videos.

Teachers are excited and glad to have kids in class.   The District is trying to address learning loss and gaps and stresses the need to be flexible and thoughtfully move forward.

Dr. Gibbon commented on addressing protocols like Elementary lunch contact tracing required assigned seats in class and lunch.  So they have had very few kids needed to quarantine (for 10 days w/o testing or 7 days if they test and get a negative result).   They met with King County Public Health and agreed to avoid mass/broad quarantines using negative tests to outweigh the slight risks of spreading covid.

The audio was lost for 5 minutes. 

Asst. Sup. Callison discussed using Social Emotional Learning to reconnect with students.  They are using literacy standards in professional development because of that aids students in reading instructions and using the Learning management systems to make info available to students.  The goal is to improve communications between teachers and students when they need help. 

Two Rivers Principal Rhonda Schmidt built a program from scratch for Two Rivers.  We have teachers monitoring the online STRIDE program and suggesting additional supports.   Families can still access school materials online –  this was one of the things students asked for most after last year and for resources to help themselves.

Director Fancher: We have a great dedicated team of people. 

Director Simpson: The District’s vision statement is coming to reality – these steps are helping us become the best district in the state by any measure.

President Johnson: Parents wanted to use Zoom for communicating with parents.  Elementary Curriculum night will be virtual.  Conferences are not planned yet.   The default will be virtual for now unless there’s a reason to meet in person.  Last year we got 90% participation rates for some parent events.

Dr. Gibbon has been discussing the year ahead with other Superintendents, and all agree – this year will be harder because of the work to do behind the scenes and recovering from last year.  Administrators have a heavy lift this year, and they don’t want to add extra beyond the student focus this year.   They will minimize other new focuses to support the District Team. 

Good of the order

Director Fancher is the Legislative representative to the WSSDA, which is rescheduled to be virtual in October, and he will seek input or priorities to advocate.    

Director Dutt thanked all the District departments, including food, transportation, teachers, administration staff.  The logistics are very hard, so he appreciated their dedication and commitment.

Future Meeting dates:

Dr. Gibbon wants to schedule a Levy proposal workshop to discuss what would be in it.  It is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, 9/30, in the afternoon.  It is a public meeting, and he wants the student reps involved if possible.

He wants to get the Board to meet with students at least 3 times a year with cross-sections of the student body to get more in-depth focus group conversations and have the board listen to them.  Possibly October/January/April.  Students will get a chance to sign up for it and possibly have lunch provided.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:36.

Future Meetings:   

Thursday, September 23, 2021, Board of Directors Meeting, 5:00 p.m., MSHS Library and Livestreamed.   

Wednesday. October 6, 2021, Board of Directors Meeting, 5:00 p.m. MSHS Library and Livestreamed.

Thursday, October 21, 2021, Board of Directors Meeting, 5:00 p.m. MSHS Library and Livestreamed.

Thursday, November 4, 2021, Board of Directors Meeting, 5:00 p.m. MSHS Library and Livestreamed.

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