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Board passes resolution to help meet needs stemming from COVID-19 closures

The Webster City School Board approved a resolution Thursday which gives Superintendent Dr. Mandy Ross authority to deal with administrative issues during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

Present were board members Eric Patterson and Rich Stroner. Directors Linda Williams and Marlin Pruismann were present via phone link. Director Beth Van Diest was absent.

The resolution limits the duration of the superintendent’s authority in dealing with the pandemic response. The resolution also establishes the availability of noon meals to students throughout the district, addresses contracted and non-contracted staff assignments, addresses instructional hours for students, states access to school property and announces limiting public attendance at school board meetings.

The district’s resolution was drafted by its legal counsel Ahlers & Cooney of Des Moines in accordance with the recommendations of the Iowa School Board Association following the pandemic proclamations of the World Health Organization, President Donald Trump and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

On March 17, the governor declared a state of emergency and recommended that all school districts cease operation for a four-week period until April 13. Throughout that time, the school administration will be working through the many challenges, said Ross.

While the governor set April 13 for the return to classes, Ross noted that the situation is “fluid and at this point in time we might have to amend it further and we might have to extend it further.”

All hourly instructional requirement hours for students will be waived in accordance with the Iowa Legislature’s bill, said Ross. With the waiver, students will not be required to make up missed days at the end of the current school year. Administrators are currently working to determine ways to instruct students via technology or homework, she said.

The Iowa Department of Education is working with districts statewide to develop distance learning on-line courses so high school students to meet graduation requirements.

“There is a fair amount of concern about our seniors graduating on time and we are waiting to hear from the state,” said Ross.

Beginning on March 23, the district will offer lunches for children ages 18 and under from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Webster City Middle School and at Northeast Hamilton Elementary School. The meal will be pick-up only and it will be free to all children, said Ross.

Contract personnel will be considered on-call and must be available throughout the duration of the emergency, Ross said. In order for staff to complete their contracted hours, they might take the opportunity for professional development, work on curriculum and possibly answer phones at the buildings. Work assignments at the buildings will be at the discretion of the building principal, said Ross.

Non-contracted staff will also serve at the discretion of the school administrator, she said.

Ross told the board that the staff security key card system has been deactivated and there will be no access to any of the buildings by the staff in general. The public may use the outdoor facilities, she said.

As to certain board meetings, attendance may be limited in order to achieve social distancing recommended by authorities, said Ross.

In other business, the board scheduled April 13 for the first public hearing of the FY2021 budget.

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