De Pere school board discusses reopening details, approves budget
By Lea Kopke
DE PERE – Deborah Armbruster, De Pere health officer/director, gave a presentation to the school board, Monday, Aug. 17. on details for determining COVID-19 community spread and the protocol to be used in schools for a suspected case.
Armbruster said she wanted to stress her role is a consultant, not a decision maker.
“I’ve had a lot of emails and a lot of phone calls saying that I should close schools for the school year and how come I’m not doing that,” she said. “It’s very clear that I do not have that kind of power or authority, nor would I want to. Between the schools and health department, I think we’re going to be able to make the best decisions that we can.”
Armbruster said despite De Pere’s relatively low case numbers, people should still be cautious.
“A lot of people have asked me, ‘What does De Pere look like?’ And well, we look good,” she said. “But we don’t just stay in De Pere, we go to Brown County, we go to the other counties. So we have to take all of Brown County into consideration.”
Armbruster worked with Krista Nelson, district nurse, to develop procedures for what to do if a student shows symptoms of COVID-19.
Armbruster said randomly selected students’ temperatures will be taken periodically throughout the day, and if a student has a fever or presents other symptoms, they will be sent to the health room for further evaluation.
She said the student will be asked questions based off of a symptoms tree published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS).
“Krista, or one of the aides will be there, and they’ll ask the questions,” Armbruster said. “We will ask them what their symptoms are. If their symptoms are that of COVID…and if they’re unusual for the child, then that’s a red flag.”
At this point, she said students would be sent home and advised to get a COVID-19 test.
“I think for the most part parents are going to be more than happy to have their children tested to find out whether it’s negative, and it’s just some other symptoms and they can go back to school, or it is positive and let’s get working on it right away,” she said.
She said if a family does not want testing done, their child will be considered to have a probable case and told to stay home for 10 days and not return until they are symptom free for 24 hours.
Armbruster said younger students with worse distancing skills could cause a whole class to be quarantined, but in classes in which distancing could be maintained, such a quarantine would not be necessary.
She said she expects a document which describes details and metrics schools can measure to determine COVID-19 spread from DHS and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to come shortly.
Armbruster said this document is partially based on a study by Harvard Global Health Institute.
“We in public health, especially the public health officers, never want to make decisions on our own,” Armbruster said. “We always want to say, ‘Well it was because of the CDC, or because of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.’ We always want to have some backing for the reason behind saying things and suggesting things.”
2020-21 district budget passed
The school board also approved the 2020-21 district budget of $49,531,981.
Dawn Foeller, business manager, said this is a 1.34 percent increase from the year prior.
The proposed total tax levy is $16,613,764 with an estimated mill rate of $6.80, down $1.07 from last year, and a decline in debt service.
Foeller said the decreased levy (down $3,291,211 from 2019-20) is due to anticipated general aids coming to the district that were not present in the 2019-20 school year.
Foeller said final budget numbers will be available Oct. 15.
Board President David Youngquist asked if there were any categories that, due to COVID-19, would have more or less expenditures than usual.
Foeller said there will be some additional costs incurred due to the pandemic this year.
“Certainly, we’re contemplating a lot of things, and we’re learning as we’re going, unfortunately,” she said. “I do have some contingency dollars in the budget that we will have to most likely shift to cover the cost of the virtual school, and perhaps some additional support for our students online to make sure they get the support that they need.”