Reopening Plan and preliminary budget for 2020-21 school year approved at July School Board meeting

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On Monday, July 27th the Cumberland School District Board of Education unveiled the much anticipated plan to reopen the Cumberland Schools for the upcoming year. The meeting, held in the Middle School commons, was well attended by 13 members of the community, and eight members of the staff. Board member Jonelle Gideo attend via video call due to health concerns.
In addition to the reopening plan, the Board heard a presentation from Chief Financial Officer, Steve Mann on the Preliminary Budget for the new school year.  Thanks to funds received from the State as part of Gov. Evers Emergency relief CARE Act, there was an approximately six percent increase in State aid during July.
Steve reported that the District’s budget for the year is balanced  at $13,681,199.  The Mill Rate should settle at around $9.50, or less.  This represents at least a 54¢ reduction over last year.
In related business, last year ended with a surplus in the general operating fund (Fund 10). Steve requested, and the board approved, a transfer of $250,000 from Fund 10 to Fund 73 (retirement benefits) to offset future liabilities.
The board also approved the hiring of Hannah Hanson as an additional Special Education Aide for the Elementary School.
At this point, Dr. Barry Rose, Cumberland’s Superintendent, took the floor to explain the District’s Reopening Plan. Note: Dr. Rose’s complete opening remarks can be found on page 2.
The plan, which the administrators and staff have been working on all summer, adapting and changing as new guidelines were received in the ever changing COVID crisis, is a comprehensive, multifaceted approach to a very complex issue.
In his opening, Rose stated their goal was to come up with a practical and reasonable plan for reopening.  He stated that he wanted the “Coming back to concentrate on learning - not chasing COVID.”
Rose said that the process for developing the plan included one entire week of touching base with every member of the staff to learn what they “took away” from the shut down. Bottom line, great marks for the communication aspects, but a need to improve lesson content.  Also  gleaned from these talks was a universal attitude that everyone is ready to come back to educate the children.  Every single teacher indicated that they will be there for the reopening.  But what about the students?  The district sent out a survey to all families in the district.  In it, parents were asked about attendance in the reopening.  71.9% of respondents answered “yes” to physical attendance, with 26.9% not sure or wanting more info before they commit.  It was also learned that 97% of students can connect to the internet, should a switch to virtual learning be mandated by a change in the situation.
In the next few days, the entire plan will be sent out to all families in the District, as well as posted to the and to the District’s Facebook page. Here are some of the highlights:
Important dates
• August 17-19 & 28: Teacher in-service days
• August 24 - 27: Orientation (Summer School)
• September 1st: First day of School
The purpose of the Orientation days is to acclimate the students to the changes in the school schedule and practices required to allow for the schools to reopen.  During those days, transportation will be provided to and from school; free breakfast and lunch will be provided, the students will receive their iPads; and students will report to their 2020-21 teacher(s) and learn their new schedules.  These will be full days. This time will also be used to help students who were behind at the end of the last school year get caught up so that they can begin school on September 1st with better footing.
The District’s goal is to have as many students as possible physically in place in the classroom.  However, in order to accommodate the possible need for students or teachers to be quarantined, a blended learning plan is available. Blended learning provides real-time access to scheduled classroom experienced through live streaming, prerecorded lesson and virtual conferencing.
Lastly, a “remote learning” option is in place should the entire district be closed again by state mandate.
In addition to the aforementioned learning platforms, the District has a valuable tool at its disposal for students who are not comfortable returning to school for health or other concerns - The Island City Virtual Academy.  This option offers distance learning, and is coordinated through the Cumberland School District but is  not taught by District staff.  Students electing this option will be required to stay in the program for at least a full semester, or the entire school year.
The District is required by the State to account for the enrolment of every child in the school district. Each student will be required to choose one of the two options (physical or virtual) for their learning environment.
The health and safety of the staff, students and their families is paramount to the district’s plan.  All the school rooms have been measured and laid out with social distancing (SD) in mind.  Class sizes have been adjusted, the schedule has been altered or staggered to minimize group exposure periods between classes. More lunch tracks have been scheduled, there will be no “build-your-own” or salad bar options, meals will be served by kitchen staff.
The district will handle the sanitation of the buildings both actively during the day, and more deeply at night, with a thorough deep cleaning on the weekends.
Water fountains have been removed/disabled.  In their place will be water bottle refill stations.
What about masks?
The district plan states: “It is highly recommended that students and staff wear face coverings while at school. Students and staff will be expected to wear face coverings in common areas where physical distancing is not possible.”
The district is placing a greater level of responsibility on parents to help monitor their students health.
In order to help facilitate this, the district will be providing each student/family with a “care package.” Each package will include a drawstring bag; thermometer, face coverings (one mask & one ‘gaiter’ ); a water bottle; magnet clip (for hanging notes on fridge), pen/pencil, and a lanyard.
It will be the family’s responsibility to see the masks, back packs and water bottles are cleaned regularly, and check each student’s temperature before the student leaves for school each morning.  Should a student have a fever or be exhibiting other symptoms, the parents must keep the child home and inform their school office immediately for instructions how to proceed.  Parents must not send children to school if they have a fever or are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms.  Should a student develop symptoms while at school, that student will be expected to be removed from the school environment within 30 minutes of notification.
Another important change involving families is that no family volunteers or guest speakers will be allowed this year. Elementary School parents will not be allowed to walk students to the classroom in the morning or congregate in the commons at pick up time.
After School Activities
The District will offer Kid’s Club and Boys & Girls Club again this year, with physical distancing protocols in place.
Sports and activities will be conducted per State guidelines and may be cancelled depending on conditions.
Other measures
• Transportation: Students, drivers, and bus aides will be required to wear face coverings/masks while on the bus; students will have assigned seats and will be required to remain in them, busses will run at 50% capacity.
• School pictures: School pictures will be taken during the school day sometime in October.  Details will be sent home when they are known.
• Field Trips: All field trips have been placed on hold until further notice.
• Supplies: There will no sharing of supplies.  Students will be expected to have their own. Art classes and science labs will have individual kits for each student containing the materials necessary to complete the assignments.
All parents and students are encouraged to read the plan in its entirety, once it has been received.  Any questions or concerns not covered in the plan booklet can be directed to the school offices or the District office, and will most likely be addressed during the orientation days.
Though not part of the actual reopening plan, the district has also invested time and effort this summer working to ensure that the school buildings and facilities themselves are more able to handle the needs presented by the COVID crisis.  
The district has invested in a clean air ionization system which will greatly increase the ability to circulate clean air throughout the facilities. They hope to have the units installed throughout the district by the time school starts.  Also, whenever possible, classes which lend themselves to outdoor learning activities will be encouraged to use the outside learning environments available to the district.
Again, this is just an overview of the District’s quick plan.  Details not covered can be found in the full plan document when it becomes available. In closing, Dr. Rose acknowledged that the plan, and the district, face great challenges in the weeks to come.  He also stated that he offers “no guarantees and makes no false promises” about the effectiveness of the plan.  He believes that the district has done everything within their power to ensure the health and safety of the students and staff while providing a productive learning environment. Only time will tell.
The next regular meeting of the School Board is scheduled for August 17th at 6:00 p.m.


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