The current average percentage rate of the virus in the district, as of November 10th, 4:59, is 25.61%. From September to November, COVID-19 cases have grown exponentially, and the school board is working to find a solution to this growing pandemic in our school, as well as the huge shortage of teachers, staff and bus drivers.
The board spoke at the beginning of the meeting that they wanted to see the numbers, discuss it and reflect on what is presented. Despite an attempt to postpone due to a lack of knowledge of the agenda, the meeting continued. The agenda of the meeting was as follows – Pledge of Allegiance, Approval of Open Session Agenda, Personnel Recommendations and Resignations November 2020, and finally, a Situational Update on COVID in the Wentzville School District.
The board addressed ‘budgetary concerns’ due to the need to hire more substitutes when teachers have to quarantine. As a result of the need for staffing, the state of Missouri changed its criteria of substitute teachers, loosening requirements for what a substitute has to have to be hired under a school district. The board, on the topic of bus drivers, says that there is “not a shortage of bus drivers,” because only two routes do not have drivers assigned to them.
Dr. Cain addressed the exponential growth of quarantine and positivity rates during the meeting, providing the statistics. Cain went through several numbers regarding exposure, student and staff quarantines, and the rapidly increasing rate in COVID-19 cases. These rates put heavy emphasis on how dire it is that the school makes adjustments to the schedule, whether it be blended or virtual learning.
“We’re reaching a point of sustainability being in question.” Dr. Cain addressed, talking about how important it is that the numbers are increasing, and how the more the numbers increase, the efficiency of how learning and day-to-day student life and safety is being taken into question.
The board next spoke on the issue of bus transportation. As the board put it, it isn’t an issue with the bus drivers, it’s an issue with having available transportation at any given time.
The board also addressed how substitutes are also hurting because of the virus, and the shortage of professional development staff due to them having to cover for teacher shortages. The board did develop a support staff hiring fair, as well as an incentive to encourage potential substitute hires.
“None of this has been easy on anyone. We fully recognize that.“ Dr. Cain said. He addressed that, despite how hard the whole staff has been working to keep their doors open, the numbers are getting too high to ignore.
“We will be engaging in level three,” Cain said. “Our elementary schools will, for now, remain at level one.”
Cain does say that extracurricular activities and sports will continue despite the moving to level three.
“We return to five days a week starting January 4,” Cain continued, providing a loose return date after winter break.
The teaching staff will be teaching from their classrooms, and students will participate from home.
“Teachers will utilize a block schedule and teach from their classrooms,” Cain said.
The board spoke on how contract tracing often resulted in students having to quarantine, then after being allowed back in school, having to quarantine again. This resulted in a high rate of absences in the school. The board addressed that there are several nurses throughout each school and how the contact tracing follows county health guidelines as well as the precision and group work in an effort to make contact tracing as efficient and accurate as possible.
“If we don’t give the parents the safety factor that they can appreciate,” board director Dale Schaper said, “then how can we ever get back to five days a week?”
In terms of the level three schedule, high school will be 7:30-2:20 virtually, and students will have a lunch break and daily live instruction. Each class will be eighty minutes, and high-schoolers will not have academic intervention during level three. Instead of this, it will be academic support every other day, where teachers set up one on one meetings with students who are struggling grade-wise. As well as this, teachers will have an extra fifty minutes where students can access them to ask questions or get clarification on work.
At the end of the meeting, the school board voted on the motion to have high school students move to level 3 on Monday, 16 and return students back to school on January 4 2020 in the Wentzville High Schools. With a unanimous vote amongst the board, the motion to begin virtual learning passed.