Community mixed on Green Bay schools reopening plan
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay community got a chance to voice its opinion on the district’s most recent plan to get kids back in the classroom during the Monday, Jan. 25 school board work session.
This was the public’s first opportunity to share thoughts on the reopening plan, which now hinges on vaccination availability for school staff, since approved by the board Jan. 19.
The reopening plan brings back elementary students, as well as sixth and ninth graders, three weeks after the first day the vaccine is available to teachers and staff.
Students in seventh and eighth grade and 10th-12th will return a week later.
At this point, the district is unsure when that date will be.
“It is our understanding from meetings with the Department of Public Instruction that on a weekly basis the Department of Health Services will notify groups within group 1B, there are multiple categories within group 1B, who is next eligible to receive the vaccination,” said Superintendent Steve Murley. “We are under the understanding at this point in time that those eligibilities will begin on the next Monday. So then for us, that would trigger, according to the language that the board passed, the reentry process for us to resume classes based on the models in the motion.”
Murley said the district’s health services team continues to work closely with local health care providers, and is confident when the vaccine is available to school staff, it will be distributed quickly.
“Our health services team has been very proactive on getting our 1A staff and those staff over the age of 65 in the queue to get vaccinated,” he said. “They’ve developed a process that helps, from a tutorial standpoint, our employees get the appropriate piece of software set up so they can get that vaccination through one of the providers.”
Parents said the reopening plan’s lack of a definitive date for a return is concerning.
“It’s critical that we continue to look at a return date that is a date, rather than an estimated timeline of the unknown,” said parent Melissa Sitz. “Particularly when we look at the fact that we have no knowledge as a district of how teachers, how many educators, how many within the district will actually accept the vaccine. And that is their choice. There are some that will and some that won’t. But we don’t even know if we are delaying this (a return to the classroom) based on 50 percent acceptance, 60 percent.”
Southwest High School student body president Kendall Troup didn’t hold back on her disappointment.
“Thank you for setting up my senior year for failure,” Troup said. “That being said, I consider myself lucky to be a senior right now. At least I’m not one of the thousands of students below me, who will be impacted for years to come by your inability to come up with a solution to a problem that you’ve had nearly a year to solve. At least I can move on, go to college and make a life for myself above petty school politics. If you truly cared about the students that you are responsible for you would not be waiting to see how other schools are handling it. You would be at the front lines trying to help the kids you are responsible for get back to real learning instead of setting them up for failure.”
Others thanked the board for its leadership during a difficult time.
“I wanted to commend you all for the courage to become a board member and sit in your seats and really make decisions that impact the community at large,” said parent David Wilson. “I’m asking (the board) to consider the perspective of other people, meaning those of us who may not feel as comfortable calling into the board meeting, emailing. A reference was made mentioning people of color, people who live in poverty, the English language learners. As I recall, I don’t remember many people speaking on behalf of that perspective. Myself, as a person of color, I can’t even speak for every person of color.”
CARES act funding
The board spent a significant amount of time discussing expenses related to the pandemic, and the process to offset those expenditures with federal and state funding.
The district received approximately $7.9 million through two sources – nearly $5 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds, also known as CARES Act funding; and an additional $2.9 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funds.
Green Bay was one of 11 districts in the state to receive these extra funds.
Pete Ross, chief of operations for the district, said a portion of the federal funds – $493,725 – is allocated to private schools.
So far, Ross said the district has claimed about $710,000 for both the public and private schools for first quarter (July, August and September) expenses.
A significant chunk of it was used for professional development for teachers and staff on online learning platforms as they prepared for a virtual start to the year.
The second quarter claim, which Ross said exceeds $1 million, has been sent in, but has not yet been processed and approved.
Much of these dollars were used on personal protective equipment (masks, face shields, hand sanitizer) and technology – hotspots, Chromebooks and charging cables, as well as shipping costs to get these devices to families.
The district has until September of 2022 to draw on the remaining approximate $5.9 million.
Vacant board spot
The search is on for a person to fill the board seat left vacant following the resignation of Kristina Shelton earlier this month.
Interested parties must be a resident of the district, be eligible to vote and legally eligible to hold the office.
Letters of interest must include the applicant’s full name, address, telephone number and email address.
It should also include reasons for wanting to serve on the board, as well as personal qualities they would bring to the board.
Letters should be sent to Beth Jones, school board secretary, at 200 S. Broadway either by mail or hand-delivered, or via email to [email protected] no later than noon Monday, Feb. 8.
Applicants will be screened in open session Monday, Feb. 15.
Virtual interviews will be held in open session Monday, March 1.
Both will be livestreamed on YouTube.
More details can be found on the district’s website.
The appointee will serve until April 10, 2022.
New vice president
Brenda Warren was unanimously elected as the board’s new vice president during a brief special board meeting prior to Monday’s work session.
She will fill the role left vacant by Shelton earlier this month.
Warren, who previously served as board president for eight years, was nominated by Trustee Andrew Becker. No other nominations were made.
Warren was elected to the board in April 2004.