Crivitz Board Votes To Open Indoor Facilities Issue Date: July 1, 2020
After more than an hour of hard and sometimes heated discussion at a special 5 p.m. meeting on Monday, June 29 Crivitz School Board, on a split five to two vote, agreed to open indoor Crivitz School facilities for use by students of the district on Monday, July 6.
The motion included a provision making the opening subject to rules to be worked out before then by Superintendent Patrick Mans, Athletic Director Jeff Dorschner, and High School Principal Jeff Baumann. Nurse Cynthia Kubicek and Elementary Principal Kelly Robinson will also most likely be involved.
Voting in favor were Amy Grandaw, Kris Heidewald, Kayla Ihde, Gary Huc and Board President Mike Dama. Opposing votes were cast by Lyle Cherry and Mike Frievalt, who had argued vigorously in favor of keeping the buildings closed until school opens on Sept. 1. Initially Dama and Huc had also argued against opening the buildings, with Dama saying several times that he preferred to err on the side of caution.
Mans had told the board that state health authorities and County Health Officer Mollie Bonjean have advised keeping facilities closed. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on Monday, June 22 issued an 81-page set of suggested guidelines for reopening schools, but left the decisions in the hands of local school boards.
The board had decided at its monthly meeting on Wednesday, June 17 to open outdoor school facilities for public use effective when the state-imposed closure order ends on Wednesday, July 1, and that decision remains in effect.
That vote came after some in-depth debate, during which Mans several times advised the board that if they chose, they could do nothing and on July 1 the buildings and grounds would again be open to serve the public as they have been prior to the March closure orders.
The board had then approved a motion to keep the buildings closed, on a split decision with Huc, Frievalt, Cherry and Dama in favor and Heidewald, Grandaw and Ihde opposed.
Subsequently, one of the board members had asked for the special meeting, which had a sole agenda item - reopening of school facilities. There were 19 members of the staff and general public present for the meeting in addition to board members and administrators
Grandaw, Ihde and Heidewald again argued strongly in favor of letting kids again use the buildings and allowing them to enjoy the company of others their own age.
"There's tons of evidence that kids don't spread this," Grandaw argued. Heidewald agreed, and said Crivitz kids go elsewhere to play softball and other sports, and should be allowed to use their own gymnasiums and other facilities.
Dorschner was asked for input, and said other school districts are "all over the map," and one district - Mosinee - has no restrictions at all, while Peshtigo has some pretty rigid rules for use of school properties indoors and outdoors. Some schools allow kids to practice shooting baskets, but allow only one kid per hoop. Some require sanitizing balls each time they are thrown. Some require kids to bring their own basketballs, and handle only the ones they bring.
"After the last meeting, I was left with more questions than answers," Dorschner said in regard to board direction. He had subsequently checked what other districts are doing, and liked the rules adopted by Seymour. He had provided board members with copies of those rules.
Dorschner said in July the Crivitz "spring" baseball season will open. They had 28 team members had it opened on schedule, and will have 22 now. Seniors from the class of 2020 are eligible,since it is part of the 2019-2020 school year. They hold baseball practices outdoors.
Dorschner added that contact days are expected when practices begin for the fall football season, the district's fees for use of Hunters Glen Golf Course are paid, and members of the golf team can do 18 holes a week.
There is enough outdoor space to hold outdoor practices for baseball, cross country and volleyball all at the same time, Dorschner said, adding that he would like more opportunity for athletes to do strength training. They are looking at having some agility and strength training outside in July. Under normal rules, the weight room is open regularly for use by athletes and members of the general public.
Huc suggested since each school district can make its own decisions about re-opening facilities, "We as a district need to set up a protocol so we can give guidance."
Mans agreed. He said there is 100 percent local control, and WIAA also has no hard and fast rules.
Mans said county health officers had asked the state Department of Health to make a tool schools can use for re-opening,and it came out late last week. He added that Nurse Kubicek had asked the board members to look at the tool and use it to help administration make decisions. Kubicek said districts are grouped into risk areas, and Crivitz s included as a high risk area. Football and wrestling are considered high risk sports. Mans commented when there is a pandemic, football, wrestling and large crowd gatherings will aways be high risk activities.
Dorschner said at this time fall sports - including football - "are on".
Frievalt argued that the facilities have been closed since spring break and should stay closed. "I understand sports are important, but education is primary," he declared. "Our staff is trying to get the buildings ready for education...I'm trying to protect our people so we can get the schools open...We've been keeping the kids safe, I can't see where we should take the chance." He said as to playing volleyball and basketball, "We can give them a ball so they can bounce it off their own walls at home." He claimed the number of identified coronavirus cases in Marinette County had jumped since the last board meeting.
He also said other places are open for kids to play ball and get exercise, for example the Crivitz Community Center and Youth Center, and repeated, "The school's been closed his long, let's keep it closed at least until the next board meeting."
"How many of our kids will be ready for school in fall?" Ihde challenged. She cited growing reports of depression and said statistics show that 40 percent of kids forced to stay at home are having mental health problems, and declared not allowing them to play their sports will be even more damaging.
As he did several times during the discussions, Dama declared his inclination to "err on the side of caution."
"If we're going to err on the side of caution, why would we agree with anything Mr. Dorschner suggests?" Ihde countered.
Huc suggested having a plan is key to this.
Dorschner said their first baseball/softball event - a softball tournament - is set for July 10, so they could not wait until the next board meeting to settle some of the issues. He said if distancing signs and clean restrooms are all you want, I can do that.
Mans repeated advice from both state and local health authorities is to cancel or postpone all summer sports, "If you decide differently, you're stepping away from those guidelines...If you decide to do something, you really should have some rationale."
Dama declared Dorschner and the other administrators should come up with a recommendation for the board.
Mans argued that administrators need some specifics from the board as to what they would like them to do. He said the DPI decision to leave things up to local control "means this body, not Mr. Dorschner, and not administration."
"When school is supposed to start, I want school to start," Cherry declared. "I cannot see sanitizing a basketball every 30 minutes. He wanted everything kept outdoors.
"Our kids are suffering...Our kids are already suffering depression, and now you're adding a month," Grandaw argued. "We're talking about a supervisor and five to 10 kids in the gym at a time...There are a lot of things we could do to keep them safe, but give our kids some normal back!" She added if they don't allow kits to enjoy each other at their own school, they will be going elsewhere, while, "If we allow kids inside here with sign-up requirements, at least we are taking some control of who our kids are with."
Ihde says she feels "a little bit guilty about taking away the privileges of taxpayers who also have enjoyed use of these facilities." As to safety of the kids, "That's up to parents. I don't feel it's up to us to tell your kids where they can go."
Heidewald commented the Youth and Civic Center facilities are open, but they are not free, and they are not cheap, "..so you're limiting who has those privileges."
Grandaw agreed with Ihde, and said she too feels bad for the adults that cannot use the facilities they help pay for.
Dama felt basketball is as much a contact sport as football, and agreed while they can do that at the Youth Center, "that's not under our watch." He added, "We're elected officials, it's our responsibility to make these decisions."
Arguments continued, and Dama suggested someone should make a motion. "If it passes, and comes back that everything should be open, fine if it fails, we can set stipulations and come back in a week." He agreed if they are going to change the rules they need to do it as soon as possible.
Mans again asked the board for direction,"some information as to what guidelines you want us to do...Do you want us to follow the state and county guidelines and keep everything closed, or not?"
Dama disagreed. He said the board wants administration to provide them with guidelines. Mans said they would do that, but at the board's direction. Dama suggested if the board had perhaps three options they could make a decision.
Ihde challenged opponents to opening the facilities to tell her how opening them could affect those who do not choose to be involved.
Dama said the kids could contract the virus and bring it home to more vulnerable family members. He said opening with guidelines might be okay, "but to say just open the facilities would be irresponsible on our part!"
Huc felt the community is about 50/50 as to opening, and agreed the board owed Mans and Dorschner some guidelines on the outside event that was coming up on July 10.
"So in order for us to have Jeff and Mr. Mans come back with guidelines we have to vote to open it," Heidewald commented.
"You could do that and we'd come back with guidelines," Mans agreed.
Dorschner repeated that he likes the Seymour "Return to play" guidelines, and said he'd like for the board to adopt them.
Dorschner and Mans both said if the board voted to open the facilities they could have some rules ready by Monday, July 6.
Grandaw stressed that if they chose to open the facilities, it would not be mandatory for anyone to use them.
Heidewald said she had numerous calls from parents concerned about the DPI guidelines for opening schools, and worried about possibly needing to get babysitters if the schools are not going to be open for their normal schedules.
Mans again said the goal at Crivitz is to be open for in-person classes as usual when school starts on Sept. 1, with regular hours, five days a week, "...as close to normal as possible, but with some mitigation." A teacher in the audience was assured they are not looking at opening before Sept. 1. Mans said staff needs some in-service time.
Grandaw then moved "...to re-open indoor facilities effective July 6 for Crivitz students, within guidelines set by Mr. Baumann, Mr. Dorschner and Mr. Mans." That motion was promptly seconded by Heidewald, and approved, with Frievalt and Cherry casting the only opposing votes.
Mans, Dorschner and Baumann all said they could have the guidelines ready for July 6, and the meeting was adjourned. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8.
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