By: Timothy Kays
Streamed live over Facebook on the afternoon of April 14, the Montpelier Board of Education convened in cyberspace for their monthly meeting, maintaining the social distancing made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Board agreed to a ten-point resolution regarding a contingency plan for the 2019-20 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic health emergency.
“This contingency plan is kind of a generic plan that school districts are doing,” said District Administrator, Dr. Jamison Grime. “Simply, the Board of Education is allowing us to do online virtual learning, and it really just gives us more flexibility as to how we’re going to roll out education for the rest of the school year…for whatever time being that that looks like.”
Dr. Grime was asked if there has been any indications given as to when the schools would be reopened. “We had a Superintendents meeting today with all the four county superintendents,” he replied, “…and representatives from ODE (Ohio Department of Education) were there also. There has been no guidance yet as to exactly what’s going to happen with the school the rest of the year. We’re done at least until May 4.”
“I know Indiana has cancelled school for the rest of the year. I would not bet the farm right now on us returning to school this year, but I can’t say that definitively. My approach to this from the get go has been to take it one week at a time. So as far as that’s concerned, we just take it one week at a time until we have more information from the state.”
Board member Jeremy Clinger asked, “I have seen published where there’s a minimum amount of learning hours per year. So at what point do we cross that, and is there a decision made at that point?” Dr. Grime replied, “Well, part of this contingency plan is essentially, the Board is recognizing that if we want to go to the state minimum school year, we have the flexibility to do that right now.”
“The minimum school year is 910 hours for K through six students, 1,001 hours for seven through twelve. So we did some projections on that, and we figured we’d hit that sometime mid to late April, we would have those hours. And I think at this point, my stance has been, let’s get to May 4 at least and see whether we’re coming back or not. Then from there, we can reconvene and figure out what it is we want to do for the rest of the school year.”
Mr. Klinger asked, “Even though those hours would be met at that point, regardless, it will still continue on to that first week of May?” “Yeah,” Dr. Grime answered. “A minimum school year, it’s not a lot hours to get in, so I think it’d be a little premature for us to be done with school on April 17, 18 or whenever that day is that we could be done.”
“Right now, the Governor’s got us close to that first Monday in May. We wait to see what the next play is, and then from there this group can reconvene with the pandemic response team again, and try to figure out what we think is appropriate.”
Board member Shawn Owen asked, “Do you think we would want to do that before the next scheduled meeting, which is going to be the 12th? Just wait and see, once we hear what the Governor says when we get closer to that time?” Dr. Grime answered, “Yeah, yeah. This contingency plan right here gives us the flexibility to essentially go to the state minimum school year, if that’s what we choose to do. So we could possibly do that before the May Board meeting we wanted.”
“I think right now the best thing we can do is, we’re kind of in a routine with the teachers and the kids with the virtual learning. We all know that for sure this is going to go through that first Monday in May, so we’ll just continue to do this until we get more guidance from the Governor, and then we’ll all reconvene and collaborate on a choice of whatever we want to do.”
The ten points of the resolution read as follows…
Pursuant to R.C. §3313.482 and House Bill 197 (2020), the Board of Education hereby authorizes the following plan to allow students of the Montpelier Exempted Village School District to access and complete online/remote lessons in order to fulfill the required number of hours during the 2019-2020 school year:
- Each teacher shall develop a sufficient number of lessons equal to or greater than the amount of instructional time the student would receive for the days and hours of closure. A lesson shall be posted for each course that was scheduled to meet on a day that the school was closed.
- Teachers will provide the building principal with access to all lessons. The building principal will certify that the lessons are equal to or greater than the amount of instructional time the student missed.
- As soon as practicable, the appropriate administrator will direct staff about how to make lessons available through a District approved website or other technology portal.
- The teacher will be responsible for posting the lessons online. The teacher shall designate the order in which the lessons are to be posted on the web portal or website if another employee is responsible for posting them on the teacher’s behalf.
- Teachers will regularly assess the progress of students and will update or replace such lessons as necessary throughout the remainder of the school year based on the results of the assessments.
- Each student enrolled in a course for which a lesson or assignment is posted shall be granted a two-week period from the date of posting to complete the lesson/assignment. If the student does not complete the lesson/assignment within this time period, the student may receive an incomplete or failing grade unless the student provides a sufficient reason to the teacher justifying why they failed to complete the lesson/assignment.
- For students who experience difficulty accessing the online material or who do not have access to a computer. Students shall be permitted to complete the posted lessons at school after the reopening of school. Students utilizing this option will be granted two weeks from the date of school reopening to complete such lessons/assignments. If the student does not complete the lesson/assignment within this time period, the student will receive an incomplete or failing grade unless the student provides a sufficient reason to the teacher justifying why they failed to complete it. The district will provide access to district computers before, during, or after the school day (provided that the equipment is available and accessible at those times) or may provide a substantially similar paper lessons/assignments for students to complete. The Board of Education hereby authorizes “blizzard bags” as needed, which are paper copies of the lessons/assignments posted. Teachers shall prepare paper copies approximating the content of the online lessons and shall update such paper copies when updating any of the online lessons. Blizzard bags have already been distributed to parents. Printed copies of any graded lessons or assignments will be included in the blizzard bags. Students utilizing this option will be granted two weeks from the date after picking them up to return completed lessons/assignments to their assigned building. If the student does not complete the lesson/assignment within this time period, the student will receive an incomplete or failing grade unless the student provides a sufficient reason to the teacher justifying why they failed to complete the lesson/assignment.
- Licensed staff including intervention specialists may provide instructional support and related services within the scope of their practice by electronic delivery method or telehealth communication to any district students, including students who receive services under Individualized Education Plans or Section 504 Services Plans, while the Director of Health’s order to close schools to students remains in effect.
- The District intends to meet its obligation to provide all students, including children with disabilities, equal access to curriculum and services during an extended school closure in accordance with state and federal law. Each building will notify parents about who they may contact if students are unable to access or participate in the program remotely because of a disability-related or other reason so that the District can explore alternative methods of instruction and possible accommodations.
- This plan includes the written consent of the teacher’s employee representative as designated under division (B) of section 4117.04. Such consent is on file in the official file of the Board of Education and is hereby incorporated into this plan as if specifically rewritten.
Should circumstances warrant a change in the plan during the 2019-2020 school year, this contingency plan may be amended by the Superintendent at any time in his or her discretion.
The Legislative Report of Mr. Owen also focused upon the effects of the COVID-19 shutdown. “Obviously with the COVID-19 pandemic we’re dealing with right now,” he said, “…on March 25, they passed House Bill 197. A couple bullet points were that it eliminates the need for state and federal testing for the school year, prohibits the issuance of report cards for this school year, and also a safe harbor for any sanctions that would come as a result of grades related to report card.”
“And then also they’ve temporarily frozen the EdChoice Voucher eligibility to those who are currently using it. And I guess the only change would be if they had a sibling that attended that school, that sibling would also be on the list to be eligible to receive that voucher. But at this point in time, really that’s the only change for this month.”
Items from Carla Rice’s Treasurer’s report included the cafeteria fund, and how the COVID-19 fallout is negatively affecting it. “Last month was a nice report,” she said, “This month…not so good. Unfortunately, due to the cancellation of school now, we have no revenue coming into the cafeteria fund until next September. So our monthly expenses are about a minimum of $22,000.”
“That’s just to cover salary and benefits. That wouldn’t include any paying for any food or any services, repairs or anything like that that would normally come out of that fund. It’s estimated that by the end of June we’ll be short about $100,000 in the cafeteria fund. This is based on the actual revenues that we received last year for the last quarter of the year.”
“Normally we end the fund at the end of the year with a carryover balance to pay salaries and benefits until school starts, and collections begin then in late August and September. So at this point, then, I’m going to be anticipating a transfer from the general fund at the end of this month. I think for the month of April, we should have enough in there to cover everything but for sure by May we’ll be looking at a transfer, probably. I’ll start with $50,000 just to get us through the summer of next fiscal year, then probably another 20 to 30, to another $50,000 to just keep us going on.”
“Right now we have a carryover balance of about $30,000. So we were in good shape, and I hate to see that balance go away so we make replenish that balance out of the general fund to get us going next year and start with kind of where we were. I have heard and I read something somewhere that there are potentially some federal funds…that might help us replace some of that revenue.”
Ms. Rice also noted, “Last month by March 27, I had sent refunds to families that had paid for the trip to New Orleans that was cancelled. Also I had paid back anyone who had ordered pies in the pie sale that the junior class was running, so all those funds were sent back by March 27.”
“About food service,” said Dr. Grime, “…we’re still exploring how we can get some sort of reimbursement for the meals that we’ve been getting out to the kids. We’ve been averaging every week about 155 kids that we’re getting breakfast and lunch to on Mondays.”
“So we’re still trying to figure out how we can access some money with that. That’s a problem for another day. Right now, we’re worried about just getting the kids fed, but we are still exploring that.”
The Board moved to accept donations of $600 from the Wolf family for the golf account; $135 from First Federal Bank to girls basketball; $1,800 from the Athletic Boosters to the baseball account, $1,005.75 to the softball account, and $3,900 to the track account, and $200 from CK Technologies to Robotics.
The Board also approved a fund-to-fund advance in the amount of 28,427.75 from the general fund to the Jazz Band New Orleans trip fund to cover the negative fund balance due to the refunding of student chaperone payments for the canceled trip. This advance is to be paid back when student chaperone deposits are paid for next year’s trip.
In matters of personnel, the Board accepted the resignation of Brett Winslow, effective at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. The Board moved to amend Andrew Robinson’s Spring weightroom coordinator contract from .33 to .25% for the 2019-2020 school year.
Raya Fadder, Brooke Lamberson and Elishah Siegel received continuing contracts for the 2020-2021 school year, and Pamela Schroeder was given a 1-year limited half-time contract.
2-year limited contracts were awarded to Jill Altaffer, E. Bess Cooley, Megan Hill, Kyle McCarley, Lauren Rickenberg, Katie Thiel, Sarah Torres, Jayme Balasko, Kaylee Fortney, Bailey Johns, Kendra Michaelis, Wesly Rickenberg and Brock Thorp. Also receiving 2-year limited contracts were Leslieann Wheeler, Noelle Chester, Chelsea Green, Megan Lamberson, Lester Orndorff, Andrew Robinson, Kaley Thorp and Caleb Wyse. Merideth Ford received a 3 year limited contract.
The Board approved a 1-year administrative contract for Jim Lee, and a 5-year administrative contract for Gerry Dewire. Amy Buck-Orndorff, Molly Collert, Brooke Funk, Nickolas Ramos, Amber Wolff and Bailey Yahraus were all awarded continuing contracts, and 1-year limited contracts were extended to Susan Cliffton, Pamela Mercer and Jamie Ward. 2-year limited contracts were given to Helen Elkins, Kristyl Fleurkens, Michael Martinelli, Kayla Rethmel, Keisha Shoup, Trent Shoup, Kaitlin Tippin and Zachary Wines. Susan Cliffton and Kara Custar were hired as summer custodians for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Board agreed to several policy updates, which included…
- Employment of Administrators
- Gifted Education and Identification
- Employment of Professional Staff
- Employment of Substitutes
- Employment of Professional Staff Members in Summer School and Adult Education Programs
- Employment of Personnel for Co-Curricular/Extra-Curricular Activities
- Employment of Classified Staff
- Employment of Personnel For Co-Curricular/Extra-Curricular Activities
- Employment Contract
- Drug and Alcohol Testing of CDL License Holders and Other Employees Who Perform Safety Sensitive Functions
- Graduation Requirements
- Students At-Risk of Not Qualifying For A High School Diploma
- Authorization To Accept and Distribute Electronic Records and To Use Electronic Signatures.
The Board approved a proclamation recognizing Teacher Appreciation Week. “I don’t think this has ever been any more important than it is this year,” said Dr. Grime. “I am not envious of the teachers right now. My job is a lot easier right now, than what they do every day. So I want to give kudos out to our staff for everything they’ve been doing, because they’ve been doing a fabulous job under the circumstances that’s involved here.”
“We do have some plans to show our gratitude and appreciation for everything that they do, but I just want to publicly thank them for everything that’s been going on. I also want to thank the parents and the kids because they’ve been stepping up and meeting the challenge head on, too; I’m more than pleased with the efforts of everybody.”
“I did personally want to thank all the teachers and staff administration at the school,” said Board member Kimberly Friend. “I think they’ve done an amazing job keeping everybody informed. I feel like the teachers have really gone above and beyond to make sure the kids have what they need, to interacting with them on Zoom meetings.”
“My kids have been on Zoom meetings with their teachers, just to keep some kind of contact going back and forth, and I appreciate that very much. So I just really appreciate the staff, the teachers and the administration, going above and beyond at this point during this time, so thank you all for that. I appreciate that very much.”
Timothy can be reached at email@example.com
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Source: The Village Reporter