School board round up, October
Twin Bridges, Alder, Sheridan
Twin Bridges Schools were closed last week after both a student and staff member tested positive with the coronavirus.
The school was closed Monday through Wednesday as a result. “Just out of an abundance of caution Mr. Kaiser (Twin Bridges Superintendent Thad Kaiser) determined to do that,” Steve Janzen, school board chair, said. Thursday and Friday were predetermined days off for teacher’s conventions.
The board discussed what this may mean for the remainder of fall sports season. A cross country meet and a volleyball game were canceled last week. The last football game of the season was scheduled on Oct. 23. Superintendent Kaiser said the last came can only be played if players had at least five practices. It is not clear if this will happen.
“We’re hoping to learn from this experience and so if it happens again, we’ll be better prepared next time,” Janzen said.
In March, the board formed a COVID team with Janzen, Superintendent Kaiser, elementary principal Cindy Brown, a counselor, a janitor and three other teachers as members. Ushered by rising case numbers in the state and county, the team reconvened Oct. 6, a day before the district’s first positive coronavirus case.
“I just let the board know, and the rest of the participants know, that we got the team back together and will be using the team to assess how we responded to these two cases at the school and just how we’re functioning in general, and if there’s anything that needs to be reassessed as far as our plan,” Janzen said.
In non-COVID related news, Nate and Chareese Miller, local residents, are obtaining their Commercial Driver’s Licenses and will become bus drivers for the district, helping to solve the dwindling bus driver’s problem that existed before COVID.
In order to continue allowing adults in the community to use the school gym, monitors were hired to keep a roster of who used the gym each day, to clean surfaces and to take temperatures of those using the gym before entrance. Two community members who expressed interest in using the facilities to teach elementary basketball programs were added as monitors in the use agreement for these specific youth activities.
Jerry Bud Redfield, Twin Bridges resident, is receiving his counseling degree from Montana State University Northern in Havre and the board approved hiring him part time as a counselor in the district. He will also be hired to work with district librarian, Jamie Reynolds, as a full-time distance learning instructor.
Five out-of-district students were approved to enter the district, and six Twin Bridges students were approved to go out-of-district. An interlocal agreement for transferring students exists between Twin Bridges and Beaverhead County High School.
Pam Birkeland, county superintendent, offered to talk to districts in the area and learn what they need regarding nursing assistance. The Ennis School District is the only in the county that has a school nurse and Birkeland is planning to help facilitate a county-wide conversation about nursing assistance, working with schools in the district and Madison County Public Health. At Alder School District’s board meeting on Friday, Oct. 9, Birkeland reported to the board that she would take on this role and would have more to share as conversations continue. “I think COVID has brought it more to the forefront,” Birkeland said about the nursing conversation. A nurse helps make the decision of whether a child needs to be sent home and can manage medications or students’ health plans if relevant. Harrison School District is working with the Madison Valley Medical Center on a tele-nursing option, Birkeland said according to a newsletter sent out by Harrison School District Superintendent Fred Hofman.
The board approved the purchase of a new speed monitor. One exists just outside of the school and board members and the lead teacher thought it best to also include one further away to better warn drivers of a school zone. One thousand dollars was approved to use for this purchase.
The Sheridan School Board decided to move forward with a prekindergarten program during the board meeting on Oct. 13.
“There’s still more I’s to dot and T’s to cross before that’s an official thing but at least we can get moving on the logistics of it,” school board chair Kendra Horn said.
A survey was sent out to parents asking if they had children in the prekindergarten age range, if they were interested in the option and if so, whether they would want a spring semester or a next fall start date. Answers to the survey are pending.
Policies regarding the prekindergarten program have to be read by the board twice, and the first reading occurred at Tuesday evening’s meeting. Logistics include hiring a teacher, finding classroom space and going through paperwork. Horn said administration is optimistic that the program could start in the spring.
The district closed for cleaning on Sept. 28 due to a staff member testing positive for the coronavirus. “That all went well. We just implemented our distance learning, and everyone did really well with it,” Horn said.
She did not know exact numbers in terms of close contacts or who was required to quarantine but felt the circle did not reach wide. In the superintendent’s report, Superintendent Mike Wetherbee said the district should be prepared to close if the state requires it. Horn said if this were to be the case, the distance learning plan would be reimplemented.
Revisions were made at the state level to different Title IX policies, and the board adopted those changes. A review of Title I policies was conducted as an update for the board. The Safety Committee met to set fire and emergency evacuation drill dates.