By Lea Kopke
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico school board voted July 19 to add an item to a future agenda that would grant the board the ability to have greater input during the district decision-making process.
The amendment would affect Board/Superintendent Relations Policy 1, Unity of Control (B/SR-1), which lays out the relationship between the superintendent and the board.
Board President Garry Sievert said this amendment relates to a section of B/SR-1, which states board members have no authority to instruct or direct the superintendent in the operation of the district, and such decisions will not be binding on the superintendent.
Sievert said the new subsection, as proposed, states: “During times of an officially-declared national state of emergency, natural disaster, war or pandemic, the board reserves the prerogative to intercede in significant need-based operational decisions, as deemed necessary by a majority vote of the board, in partnership with the superintendent, to vote on related need-based operational plans typically delegated to the superintendent under normal circumstances.”
This means, in times of emergency, the board could first vote to determine whether it was necessary for it to step in, before holding a separate vote to make a decision.
Board member Jason Potts said he liked the subsection because it’s specific about when the board would exercise that authority.
“One of the things that I thought of as we were dealing with the pandemic was the extent to which all of the blame – if you want to put it that way – for any decisions that were made about how school was going to proceed during that time, fell on one person’s shoulders,” Potts said. “It is probably appropriate for decisions of that magnitude to be taken up by the board.”
Board member Vanessa Moran said at a future meeting she wants to look at the proposed language which states the board could only have greater input during the time of an emergency and determine exactly what that means.
“Are there other times that potentially the board would need (to step in)?” Moran said. “I do not think that this issue was related directly to the pandemic. I think there have been other times that it may be imperative that the board steps in.”
The board voted unanimously to place the amendment on a future agenda.
Before any policy change is made, the board must hold two policy readings.
Superintendent Damian LaCroix said the district continues to look to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities for advice regarding the return to school this fall.
LaCroix said summer school is wrapping up successfully, with only one adult and one student testing positive for COVID-19.
During summer school, the district recommended masking but did not require it, and he said during a walk-through this week he saw few students with masks.
“It’s an apples and oranges comparison,” LaCroix said, regarding what this means for the fall. “We’ve got smaller class sizes, many of which are outside and have a greater ability to social distance in that setting. So while I’m encouraged by this, I can’t say this is a foolproof predictor for when kids come back in September.”
He said the district is looking into adjusting its exposure, quarantining and testing protocols from what was used during summer school.
LaCroix said exposure protocols may be adjusted so students are only recommended to see a doctor if they experience major symptoms, such as a loss of taste or smell.
He said the district is hoping to standardize its quarantine period for adults and students so both groups have a standard length of seven days with a negative COVID-19 test.
Jennifer Garceau, student services director, said the district will no longer require anyone to monitor his or her symptoms on an app during quarantine.
Garceau also said the district is looking into whether Prevea can provide onsite COVID-19 tests for Howard-Suamico employees and their families, and possibly students with parental consent, at its Bay Port clinic.
Board member Greg Klimek and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Mike Juech updated the board on the district’s facilities projects.
Klimek said no dirt has been turned yet on its Forest Glen and Bay View projects, but there has been communication at the school level with staff from each school involved in idea-sharing.
“It’s very impressive the number of people, the ideas, the creative sharing that we have,” he said.
Klimek said the ideas shared would be used in future iterations of schematics.
He said construction will likely not start until late winter or early spring.
Communications Director Brian Nicol said a summer newsletter will come out this week giving an update on two main questions: What is the district working on? When will air conditioning be installed?
The board will go over schematic designs at its Aug. 16 meeting and receive an update on Bay View drawings for submission to the Village of Howard Plan Commission at the board’s Sept. 13 meeting.