Green Bay asks district to use high school gyms for elections
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – It’s still unclear if using the four district high school gyms for polling locations for the August and November elections is a possibility after the school board spent more than an hour discussing the topic its meeting Monday, June 15.
Though the request from the city’s adhoc elections committee asked to use the gyms for both elections, trustees focused discussion around the August election, noting there are currently too many unknowns in regards to November.
The biggest concern trustees and district administration have is the safety of students and staff.
There was apprehension from some board members before district and city leadership met officially to discuss the details – timeline, cleaning and liability.
So far, no conversations have taken place between Mayor Eric Genrich and Superintendent Michelle Langenfeld.
The request was sent to board member Dawn Smith from a member of the adhoc elections committee, which Smith passed to Langenfeld.
The issue found its way to the board table after administration recommended denial, based on the district’s policies regarding third-party usage of district facilities.
The biggest concern was safety of students and staff, with the possibility of fall sports practices and other extracurricular activities reopening during this time.
Board Vice President Kristina Shelton said she is in support of the partnership, because all the unknowns at this time can be answered with a partnership and plan.
“I think with a good plan and being good stewards of our community and upholding democracy, these are all things we can overcome,” Shelton said. “It is my understanding that is city is, quite frankly, willing to be very accommodating and provide funding for these items to make sure these don’t come at a cost, or at an increased risk of our staff or students. This is what it means to be a community member, a good partner at a time of national pandemic. Desperate times call for courageous actions.”
Shelton is also a Democratic candidate in District 90 of the Wisconsin State Assembly and will be running in the primary.
Some board members agreed they would like to see the city avoid a repeat of the April elections, but are a little uneasy about offering up the gyms if there weren’t other things in place.
“I would like some binding commitment, so we aren’t just hearing that the city is going to try and do everything they can to avoid a repeat of last year,” said Trustee Andrew Becker. “I’d like to make that impossible by contract. I’d like to offer our gyms in August contingent in writing that the city would be running a minimum of 10 other fully-staffed polling places.”
Though no specific plans for reopening the district are in place at this time, administration is requiring anyone entering school facilities to wear a mask and answer a few screening questions before doing so.
This would include the elections, if the board allows the city to use the four gyms.
The board directed administration to set up a meeting with city leadership to work on the specifics.
A special board meeting on the issue is expected in the next couple of weeks.
Parent, staff reopen surveys
Board members briefly discussed the results of a survey sent to parents and district staff regarding reopening schools this coming fall.
Questions focused around comfort levels with students returning to school in the fall, different options of instruction, including continued remote learning or a blended option, and the possibility of masks being required for staff and students.
Overall, parents and staff had similar hopes of returning to some sort of in-person classes in the fall with precautions.
Langenfeld said staff will use this data, along with the numerous comments collected, and present the board and the public with a report of the findings.
From there, staff will determine if more information needs to be collected before bringing it to the board for discussion and a decision.
“It’s a good tool, critical piece of data, to start with,” Langenfeld said.
Last board meeting
The school board took time to honor two district staff members as they attended their final board meeting.
Langenfeld and board secretary Sandra Heller are retiring at the end of June.
Board member Brenda Warren read two proclamations thanking and highlighting both Heller’s and Langenfeld’s contributions to the district.
Heller has worked for the district for more than four decades and began as board secretary in 2002.
“Your knowledge is deep, I’m not sure how they are going to replace you,” said Celestine Jeffreys, former board member and current chief of staff for the Green Bay mayor.
Board members unanimously voted to elect district administrative assistant Beth Jones as the new board secretary, effective July 1.
Langenfeld served as superintendent for the Green Bay School District since 2011, coming to Titletown from Minnesota.
“Michelle has never wavered in her singular commitment to our students,” Warren said. “There have been some bumps in the road over the last nine years, but even during those times she never gave up in her fight to do right by our students, and her fight for public students across the state.”
Green Bay’s new superintendent Steve Murley will take over July 1.