ACSD Board of Directors hears updates on Wi-Fi hotspots for some students learning at home, other student and curriculum matters at final 2020 session

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) school board members met Monday evening, December 21 for their regular monthly board meeting.

Under the Consent Agenda, the board approved personnel for after-school programming, pending the completion of a satisfactory background check. The board accepted the resignations of Rachell Adney and Amber Adney from their co-varsity volleyball coaching positions and the resignation of Jeremy Strub from his ninth grade volleyball coaching position. The board approved the Title IX Sexual Harassment Procedures Manual and also approved a Morningstar Student Teaching Agreement.

During the communications time, the board heard a presentation regarding Secondary Student Services PLC. Staff updated the board on how they are helping and supporting at-risk and special education students during this school year, especially those who are not doing face-to-face learning at this time in all grade levels.

Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin said that she and the PLC committee communicate regularly, if not daily, and one area of focus is reaching out to students who are not doing face-to-face learning. Staff members are Zooming with students and finding other ways to offer extra support as well as communicating expectations and hopes for those students.

In his Superintendent’s report, Jay Mathis noted that he and Technology Director Shawn Gordon are working on getting Wi-Fi hotspot devices from U.S. Cellular for the families of students who are quarantined and learning from home but may not have good internet service. The hotspots can be paid for out of CARES Act funding.

Mathis is also working with Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy regarding the installation of the large LED sign that was gifted to the school district by Waukon Economic Development Corporation. They have received some estimates for installation and running electricity to the sign and are hoping to get the project done for less than the $5,000 limit.

Principal Garin reported that the Construction class students are coming along on the class house project. The FFA had a successful fruit fundraiser. She also reported on semester test schedules and the upcoming professional development day.

Waukon High School Activities Director/Assistant Principal Brian Hilsabeck congratulated fall activities and sponsors for successful seasons. He also reported that the winter sports seasons are going well, and the district continues to work with local public health professionals to ensure safety of everyone involved. Board member Beth Shafer asked about the possibility of doing a YouTube channel for winter events, and Hilsabeck said that they are using winter concerts as a trial and that they will look at it more in depth to see if it would be a good fit.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege thanked staff and administration for their work in keeping students able to learn in-person and have successful winter sports events. He also reported that the middle school will continue to promote reading and writing as part of the curriculum and find areas that need improvement.

East and West Elementary Principal Samantha Thornton reported that they have finished up the state desk audit for pre-school and will be focusing on areas of growth. They will be sending out a survey to pre-school families for feedback. They have also been discussing transitional kindergarten, as well as how they are going to approach kindergarten and pre-school round-up next year.

She also updated the board on the decision to do grab-and-go breakfasts and how the schools are handling the issue of forgotten masks. Students were issued an extra mask to be kept in lockers and there is a mask drop-off station at East and West for students to put dirty masks in to be washed.

ACSD Curriculum Director Eliza Philpot reported on professional development and teacher leader professional development planning. She also noted that teachers are looking at samples of new math curriculum and making notes of what they like and don’t like. State testing will take place this spring, with tests being given in a monitored environment and there won’t be an option for children to not test.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted in his report that the floors of district buildings will be waxed over Christmas break and they are adding water bottle fillers to all drinking fountains. LED fixtures will be installed in the Middle School art room over Christmas break.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon noted in his report that ERATE filing has started for the 2021 year. The technology department continues to look at software and subscription needs. He also reported that there have been shortages on laptop parts, so some laptop repairs are taking longer than usual.

Food Service Director Julie Magner reported that they are continuing to press on through the school year with hot lunches and grab-and-go meals.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling reported that the application deadline for DERA grants was extended to December 21 due to issues with the DOT website. He also reported that drivers have been staying healthy and they are looking for substitute bus drivers.

Under old business, the board approved the second reading of numerous Board Policies. Those policies dealt mainly with administrative measures and student behavior and well-being.

Under new business, the board approved a bid for two 71-body, 48-passenger propane powered buses from School Bus Sales for a total cost of $209,850 (without DERA grant)/$139,003 (with DERA grant of 35%). The board also approved an SBRC Request-MSA for At-Risk/Dropout Prevention-$296,950.

The board then approved the first reading of a significant number of additional Board Policies. Those policies regarded employee administration and guidelines, as well as benefits.

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