ACSD Board of Directors discusses numerous items in regard to upcoming new school year, including in-person Return to Learn Plan

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met for its regular monthly meeting Monday evening, August 16. A welcome reception for new teachers was held prior to the meeting. Board member Beth Shafer was absent.

Under the Consent Agenda, the board approved the following personnel matters: After School Program staff; Ashley Mitchell as a West Elementary Paraprofessional; Michelle Gress as a West Elementary Paraprofessional; Amanda Willoughby as a West Elementary Paraprofessional; Marissa Nagel as a Level 3 Paraprofessional; Kay Gavin as Food Service Administrative Assistant; and 2021-2022 Mentors.

The following resignations were accepted: Kari Harrington from her Paraprofessional position; Michelle Kiel from her Food Service Administrative Assistant position; Jennifer Hermanson from her Paraprofessional position; and Kyle Gordon from his Middle School Wrestling Coach position. Sunday requests for gym space and football field use were approved for third/fourth and fifth/sixth grade volleyball Sunday practices and Waukon Youth Sports Foundation (YSF) football games.

Several open enrollments out were approved. The board also approved the 2021-2022 NICC Concurrent Enrollment and Health Occupations Consortium Contracts. The board also approved an Athletic Trainer Agreement with Veterans Memorial Hospital, although board member Brent Beyer had some questions with wording of the document regarding rates charged. Waukon High School Activities Director (AD) Brian Hilsabeck said he would get clarity on the matter. The board also approved the Annual Treasurer’s Report.

During the Communications time of the meeting Dr. Bill Withers, Keystone Area Education Agency board member, and Pat Heiderscheit, Keystone AEA Administrator, made their annual appearance to update the board on what’s been going on with Keystone and to field any questions that board members might have. Dr. Withers explained that Heiderscheit would be retiring from his position next June, so Keystone has partnered with a search firm to find a suitable replacement. Board President Al Rissman thanked Heiderscheit for his years of service with Keystone and for his time in the Allamakee Community School District.

In his Superintendent’s report, Jay Mathis noted that Allamakee Public Health will be holding a vaccine clinic August 18 from 9-11:30 a.m. for students ages 12 to 18 years of age. Staff will be reporting August 20, 23 and 24 to prepare for the first day of school August 25. There will be open houses for the public to view the improvements made to East and West Elementary schools Monday, August 23 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Waukon High School Principal Jen Garin reported that they have over 70% of students registered. New student orientation night will be Monday, August 23 at 7 p.m. She also updated the board on Professional Learning Community (PLC) Leader Professional Development Day and Professional Development Days coming up. Picture day at the high school will be August 26. Garin thanked the custodians for their work on the buildings this summer and the food service staff for their work on the Summer Feeding Program.

Garin also thanked local veterans’ organizations for help with funding so that each classroom could have  an American flag. Legislation passed in House Bill 847 requires the Pledge of Allegiance to be said each morning and a flag in every classroom.

AD/Assistant Principal Brian Hilsabeck reported that Fall activity numbers are looking good. A Booster Club membership drive/meet the team night will be held Friday, August 20 at 5 p.m. in the Waukon High School gym. Coach Kathy Bresnahan, author of “Miracle Season”, will be the featured speaker. Hilsabeck thanked Dr. David Schwartz and the VMH Clinic team for offering free physicals/screenings in July. He also thanked the custodial crew for its work over the summer on the school and the facilities.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege reported that registration is about 75% complete for the Middle School and staff is ready to be back to work. He also updated the board about a few changes that will lead to greater student achievement, including use of Homeroom time to help struggling students and use of Homeroom time once a week to have physical activity through intramural sports. Middle School fall sports are up and running as well.

Elementary Principal Samantha Thornton reported that Meet the Teacher Night will be August 23 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The public open houses at East and West will follow Meet the Teacher Night.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy reported that his staff has done a great job getting the facilities ready for the 2021-2022 school year and they are preparing for fall sports. Summer projects have been finished. The fire alarm system was checked and is in working order. The sprinkler system was checked and will need a little bit of work done to it.

Technology Director Andy Reichard reported that they have completed the E-RATE Category 2 implementation of the new Ethernet Switches. Wireless Access Points should be installed sometime in September. Student laptops are ready to distribute. The Talented and Gifted (TAG) program plans on ordering 15 new iPads for the TAG room and a Dremel 3D45 DIGLAB 3D printer. The use of the new PowerSchool Enrollment program has had its challenges, but so far has gone well. Reichard thanked Marcus Bell for helping him with his transition into his new Technology Director position.

Foodservice Manager Jess Keenan reported that they have finished up the Summer Feeding Program. She thanked Jane Sivesind for her work over the summer with the program. The USDA has approved free meals for all students through June 2022. Keenan also noted that she is excited to be moving in to the Foodservice Director position. She has met with kitchen managers and taken her training. She also thanked former Foodservice Director Julie Magner for her help prior to Magner’s leaving.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling  brought one of the new propane-powered buses to the school so board members could tour it if they wanted to. The most recent new buses were delivered the last week of July. Drivers have completed their three-hour update class. Eberling noted that they are getting routes mapped out and working on getting buses ready for service for the new school year.

Under Old Business, the board approved the second reading of a number of Board Policies. Those policies dealt with school board procedures, employee administration, open enrollment, student curriculum, transportation and recording devices.

Under New Business, the board approved paraprofessional schedule changes. Most changes involve making some part-time positions into full-time positions. At the elementary level, changes would save the school approximately $7,800. At the middle school level, there would be a reduction in three paraprofessionals and the savings would be $12,400. At the high school level, they will opt to not replace paraprofessionals who resigned last year and add three full-time special education paraprofessionals. The additional cost is less than $300.

The board then moved on to an open enrollment consideration. Superintendent Mathis noted that he felt this request should be denied because it did not meet “good cause” and he also noted that the papers were not filed by the appropriate deadline. The board denied this open enrollment request. The board approved the 2021-2022 salary schedule for the building secretaries. Mathis noted that they received a raise, and while it’s not a large raise, he said it was “needed and well-deserved.”

The board then approved the ESSER III/Return to Learn Plan. Mathis noted that this is required by the Federal level to apply for ESSER III funds. He noted that ACSD will be doing exclusively in-person learning, except for snow days. On snow days, they will do virtual learning. He also noted that because of Iowa legislation, there can’t be a mask mandate and no requirements for vaccination checks. PPE will be available for those who would like to have it and they will continue to use good cleaning habits and teach proper handwashing and ways to not spread COVID and other illnesses.

There were no specifics on spending of COVID-related funds, though Mathis says they have been getting some guidance on that. Board member Erik Helgerson asked if the district knew how many staff members had been vaccinated and Mathis responded by saying he though it was over 70% of staff members.

The board approved a bid from Olympic Fire Protection Corp. in the amount of $10,605 for labor and material to replace the existing fire pump controller. The board also approved a bid from Waukon Feed Ranch for 6,000 gallons of liquid propane (LP) at $1.35 a gallon. The company will come to the bus garage and fill the buses. The board also approved a bid from Apple Inc. for 15 iPads for the AALP room in the amount of $5,935.