Haysville moves to remote learning for older students

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Sports and activities to continue but without fans

By Travis Mounts
TSnews

HAYSVILLE – Secondary students at Haysville Public Schools will move to remote education starting next week on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
The decision was made at a special USD 261 Board of Education meeting held via Zoom on Monday night. Remote education will run through the rest of the second nine weeks, which ends on Jan. 21.
The motion passed on a 5-2 vote, with board members Greg Fenster and Paige Crum voting no. Crum said she voted against the motion, stating she felt the data provided versus what is occurring in schools does not provide enough evidence for definitive a decision at this time.
In a separate motion, the board approved on a 5-2 vote to continue with winter sports and other extra-curricular activities but without fans in attendance. Fenster and Jennifer Bain opposed the motion. This decision applies only to events hosted by Campus High School, Haysville Middle School and Haysville West Middle School. Spectators could be allowed at other schools, based on their decisions and policies. This decision covers theater, band and orchestra, as well as debate and forensics.
“I think we all have a little bit of heartburn over this,” Bain said before voting no on sports and extra-curricular activities.
The board’s action come as Haysville Public Schools are seeing an uptick in positive cases of COVID-19 as well as related quarantining of close contacts.
Dr. Clint Schutte, assistant superintendent for business and finance, said the district saw 11 or 12 positive cases on Monday alone, and had to put 70 students at Haysville Middle School into quarantine. There were quarantines at other buildings on Monday as well.
“It’s taken a huge explosion,” Schutte said.
In addition, the district is struggling to have enough teachers and staff for in-person teaching, especially at the high school and middle school levels. Campus High School was missing nine teachers on Monday, which is roughly 10 percent of the faculty. Most, although not all, of those people were missing because of COVID-19 or related quarantines. Haysville Middle School was expecting to be without all of its secretaries on Tuesday because of quarantines. Districts across the area have had trouble finding substitute teachers this year.
“Our sub pool dried up fairly early,” said Dr. Mike Clagg, assistant superintendent for personnel. “We are close to fail-safe on substitutes.”
He added that many staff members are taking on additional duties outside of their original job descriptions.
“It’s difficult in some areas on some days to get even essentials done,” Clagg said. He said the one area the district has been able to stay on top of is sanitation each night.
Board member Jennifer Bain expressed her concern about having enough teachers to continue with classes.
“We have no subs. Our teachers are all being quarantined. All of our staff members are being quarantined. People are trying to plug holes with as many fingers and toes as they currently have, and it’s not working. Something has to give here and it kind of looks like a 6-12 remote for a certain short amount of time. Maybe that’s what’s needed to kind of kick this to the curb a little bit to get our numbers back down,” she said. “We can’t continue to maintain this.”
Discussion on the issue went for nearly two hours on Monday, covering a wide range of related issues. Topics included concerns about how many teachers are wearing masks properly, social distancing among students in school, social gatherings among students outside of school, and how things might be impacted during the upcoming holiday season.
Schutte acknowledged there had been some issues with faculty not wearing masks or not wearing them properly.
“Every time they (principals) are aware of a situation, they address it…We do have individuals who work for us who feel this is not a big deal,” he said.
When remote learning begins next week, the plan is to have as many teachers as possible teaching from their classrooms. There may be some cases where faculty members are remote as well.
In addition, the board is allowing some high school classes to meet face-to-face because of the need for special equipment or hands-on learning.
District administrators have been tasked with working out transportation in those cases.
Additionally, students with individualized educations (IEPs) will continue to be served. Administrators will work with those students and families to serve those needs.
Dozens of people shared their thoughts in the comments section as Monday’s meeting was broadcast on YouTube. The opinions were wide ranging, from those who feel that masks do not offer protection and that the coronavirus is not a major threat, to people who felt there should be no sports and other extra-curricular activities if students were not attending school in person.
As for activities, board members asked for feedback from various staff members. Josh Godwin, assistant principal and activities director at Campus High School, seemed to sum up staff opinion when he said he would support not having on-site fans if that meant students would get to play.
It was explained to board members that not having fans would lessen the number of staff members required at events, which would lessen the risk to many support staff. Earlier in the meeting, concerns had been raised about the risks posed to support staff such as custodial, food and transportation.
The move to remote learning will be monitored, and the board of education will address the situation before the start of the second semester in January.