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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Coleman Board May Restore 5-Day In-Person Classes For Upper Grades

Issue Date: February 24, 2021

Currently in Coleman School District elementary students attend classes on the regular 5-days per week schedule, while students in grades six through 12 are divided into two "cohorts," with each having face-to-face classes in school two days a week - either Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays - and virtual at-home classes two days a week, with Wednesdays scheduled for support procedures. They are expected to discuss changing this at the next board meeting, which is set for Monday, March 8.

During time for public comment at its monthly meeting on Monday, Feb. 15, the board heard an impassioned plea from a mother urging them to bring students at all grade levels back to face-to-face in-person classes five days a week. Her comments were countered by a teacher who disagreed, and suggested the board should survey students to determine their preferences.

Board member Corey Kuchta strongly supported her concerns. While everyone expressed hopes of returning to full time in school education, some board members and Superintendent Doug Polomis expressed varying levels of concern over need for Covid-19 precautions. Polomis said he and School Nurse Kelly Mitchell are working on getting staff members vaccinated as soon as possible. Polomis said the issue will be on the agenda for discussion and possible action at the board's next regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, March 8.

Board President Ryan Wendt predicted after the Feb. 15 meeting that the board will consider returning all students to regular 5-days per week schedules at the start of the fourth quarter on April 6.

All board members were present for the Feb. 15 meeting. Polomis attended by phone.

At the start of the meeting Board Member Joanne Nowak had a number of questions in regard to bills presented for payment, one of them involving cost of transporting children to a day care center. Polomis, by phone, explained by law, the district is required to provide that transportation even on days classes are not in session, which accounted for the separate charge. Administrative Assistant Lori Karban explained also some of the bus fees were for transportation in regard to co-curricular activities involving St. John's school.

Mrs. Barb Payette, during time for public comment, said she was present on behalf of herself and numerous others in the community who are concerned about the education being provided for Coleman's middle school and high school students.

She stated other area schools within a 30-mile radius are holding full time in-school classes while Coleman is still in a blended mode, and suggested the board should look into how they are accomplishing this safely.

She said she had been under the impression that the 2-days per week in-person classes with the other two days at home with virtual studies was a short term plan and "we are now in the 3rd quarter and we are still in blended learning."

She asked the board to look at some of the research that shows schools are not necessarily "super spreaders" of Covid, as well as research showing that isolation is not good for them, and declared, "Most parents are not in favor of the education our students are receiving."

Some of her children have graduated from Coleman High School and are now in college, and she is worried about the child still at home and now attending part-time classes. "My daughter is not getting the same education that my other children did," she declared, "We are destroying our kids as far as their educational needs!"

She is concerned about the amount of "screen time" students put in, and about lack of social interaction and collaboration they had been told is so important in today's business world. She said students are getting through the class materials, but wondered if they are able to implement it.

She said the school currently is not promoting healthy interpersonal relationships, and students are not gaining skills they need. She thanked the board for their time.

High School English Teacher Sarah Thomas said she is a mother as well as a teacher, and declared the are many differing opinions from students and parents.

She has asked her students what their current feelings are about 5 days a week instruction and has received different answers. "Some of the parents have gotten into the groove of two days on and three days off," she said, adding that some students also like it. She suggested the board should have another survey, this time one for parents and one for students to find out what they want to do.

She said she would be in school five days a week with her students if that is the Board's decision, but said some students tell her if the school goes back to full time their parents will make them go to full-time virtual learning.

She sympathized with the board for the hard decisions facing them.

Thomas and Payette agreed that education for some students will need to be all virtual due to health issues.

Kuchta expressed his concern as a parent over education the students are losing, and declared he does not feel an additional survey is needed. He said his four kids like having to go to school only two days a week, but then declared strongly, ""as a parent, do I think that is good for them? No!" and concluded, "I think all of us, as a community and as a board, are ready to open back up!"

He stressed that the kids need to be in school 5 days a week and said he is looking forward to bringing this discussion back to the board for a vote in March.

Board President Ryan Wendt felt the fact that parents want their kids to come back to school is a testament to the quality of the school, "a great compliment to our district."

He said he appreciates the comments from everyone, but cautioned, "I don't think we're going to get normal back, even when we go to five days a week." He added there will remain issues on how to socialize, and said when setting rules the board and administrators must consider the risks as well as the benefits.

Polomis said he and Nurse Kelly Mitchell are working on getting staff vaccinated as soon as possible, and are conferring with local physicians and Marinette County Department of Health on when that can happen.

Board Member Jamie Hoida had some questions on how classes will be scheduled when students do come back to school five days a week.

Reports by Polomis and Elementary/Middle School Principal Yvette Marshall included information on scheduling changes to accommodate the up-coming Parent Teacher conferences, which will again be virtual, either through Google Meet or by phone.

The district rescheduled parent teacher conference dates from Thursday, March 11 to Tuesday, March 9 from 1-7 p.m. for families to meet with their child's teacher. Due to COVID-19 precautions, the conferences will be held either through Google Meet or by phone.

Marshall reported the elementary/middle school had recognized and celebrated the district's bus drivers during the week of February 8. "Every day, either as children, parents or school staff, we appreciate school bus drivers," Marshall declared. "They are always there to make sure that students get to and from school safely and on time." Students and staff had special gifts to celebrate their drivers that week.

The Spring Book Fair will be online only. The website to order from will be active from March 1st through the 14th with links posted on the District website, Facebook, and paper flyers that will go home with Elementary students.

Marshall congratulated Middle School Students of the Month - 6th grader Hailey Rosner and 7th grader Matthew Tedtman.

She also congratulated 8th grader Beverly VanderMuss, who won the district's 6th-8th Grade Spelling Bee again this year and will be representing Coleman at the Badger Wisconsin State Spelling Bee for the third year in a row. She thanked Joanna Gross for organizing the local event.

Friday, February 26 is a Professional Day and students will not have school. Elementary grade level teachers will be working with ELA curriculum that day, along with being inserviced on a new technology platform. Middle School teachers will be in a workshop to learn more about school and district accountability.

Elementary students will hold their Read Across America event on Tuesday, March 2. Students and teachers have the opportunity to engage in and celebrate various literacy activities that day. Green eggs and ham will be served for breakfast that day as well.

In his report as High School Principal and Superintendent Polomis congratulated the Coleman Cougar wrestling team for advancing to team state on February 19. He noted they also had four wrestlers - Ray LeMieux-6th, Karson Casper-2nd, Tyler Blanchard-3rd, and Spencer Karban-3rd - who advanced to individual state competition on February 12.

Girls Basketball (GBB) season wrapped up at the top of the conference and Boys Basketball (BBB) wrapped up the conference title and is beginning tournament play.

Like the Elementary/Middle School, High School Parent Teacher Conferences will be held on March 9 instead of March 11, from 1-7 p.m. Due to the current status of COVID-19 cases parents will have 2 options for conferences. They can call in during conferences or arrange for a Google meet with a teacher prior to March 9. MS/HS families are asked to arrange these with teachers directly.

Elementary teachers will reach out to parents to schedule a phone call or Google meet. With this change Cohort 1 will attend school on Monday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 11. Cohort 2 will remain the same attending Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13.

ACT exams will take place on Tuesday, March 9.

Five students are advancing to state FBLA competition. The online testing will be in March with the "state event" on April 12. Students advancing are Thomas Bartnik, 1st in Computer Problem Solving; Jesse Borchart, 2nd in Impromptu Speaking; Sylvia Fochesato,1st in Introduction to Business; Maddy Hoida,3rd in Organizational Leadership, and Rachel Terp, 3rd in Introduction to Parliamentary Procedure.

The Forensics season is underway with eight students participating this season. The team was to virtually attend the WHSFA Statewide Subdistrict Speech Festival on February 17. Students will record their presentations which will then be shared via a link in Speechwire. Judges will log in to this platform, view the videos, and provide feedback. Students must earn a score of 16/25 points to advance to district-level participation, to be held on March 16.

Administration and Guidance Counselors worked on 2021-22 scheduling with a scheduling consultant on February 2 and 3 to develop master schedules. Mrs. Allen will be starting to work with high school students soon to develop their individual schedules.

The January pupil count has been completed, with Coleman up three students from the September count, from 677 to 680.

There is a Professional Development day scheduled for Friday, Feb. 28. Staff will be working on the elementary language arts curriculum and the new accountability reports for the district. With inservice that Friday, Cohort 2 will have classes on Wednesday and Thursday. There will be no virtual instruction that week.

Polomis said the Board will be asked to finalize a loan defeasance at its April meeting. This was also done last year to save the District money on its interest owed as a result of the referendum debt. Last year they saved $181,000 by defeasing $431,000 of debt, and he felt they will save about $235,000 by defeasing over $600,000 of the debt.

Hoida reported the Building and Grounds Committee met prior to the board meeting and agreed to recommend JW Flooring be approved for the flooring project as they came in the lowest, $68,402, and were highly recommended when references were called. For the painting bid the committee recommended Laser Painting, $41,000. Hoida said they have done work for us in the past and have done a quality job. Later in the meeting the board approved both recommendations.

Restroom construction bids are due on Monday, March 1.

A long, long list of policy revisions were discussed at as Policy Committee Meeting. The committee agreed two policies should remain unchanged, and they felt they need to clarify some language regarding the marketing and selling of student information as spelled out in Policy 2416. For the remainder of the policies the committee recommended approving NEOLA's recommended revisions.

The board was told FastBridge is the new assessment tool used for our AGR goals. Kindergarten - 46% met the end of year reading goal, and 52% met the end of year math goal. First grade - 18% met the end of year reading goal and 34% met the end of year reading goal. Second grade - 45% met the end of year reading goal and 45% met the end of year math goal. Third grade - 57% met the end of year reading goal and 63% met the end of year math goal.

First grade scores were a concern. Marshall stated only 26% of students met the mid year goal and another 5% were short of the mid year goal by only 1 point, but said this is a concern of hers. Marshall said first grade teachers realize that due to Covid, these students did not get the base instruction that usually happens the last quarter of their kindergarten education.

Summer School 2021 will be held Tuesday, June 8 to Thursday, July 1. Registration will open March 29 with busing registration due by April 8. Parents can still sign up children for classes after April 8. Marshall said they are still looking at offering swimming lessons and have been in contact with River Cities Pool, but have not heard back from them yet.

If Coleman offers swimming they will have to determine a priority for student sign up, Marshall said. She reminded the board they cannot charge for swimming lessons and also claim minutes for reimbursement with DPI.

They will continue to serve lunch before students leave for the day. There will be two sessions again and if a teacher charges a fee for a course that teacher will be responsible to collect all necessary fees. We are thinking about having students sign up for one academic session and one enrichment session, and will bring forward more details for the March meeting, Marshall said.

Wendt asked for thought to be given to offer summer school classes to make up for learning opportunities missed due to Covid restrictions.

In the 2021-22 High School Course Description Booklet there are two new classes being offered taught by our staff - Introduction to Graphic Design and Building Trades. There are also seven new distance learning classes being offered. "These classes have been very successful and beneficial to our students and their popularity continues to grow," Polomis said. The board voted without dissent to approve the course description book as presented.

The board also unanimously approved hiring Stephanie Schaal as a Paraprofessional and Beth Gannigan as an Assistant Softball Coach, hiring of Katherine Schermer-Ludak as Varsity VB Coach and resignation of Katherine Schermer-Ludak as Junior Varsity VB Coach.

A $1,050 donation to the Agriculture Department in memory of Larry Bitter was accepted with thanks, as was a $3,500 donation from the Class of 1965 to the STEM Area.

After completing other business for the evening the board went into closed executive session for the purpose of "considering employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility," specifically, Administrative Review. They returned to open session at 9:19 p.m. and adjourned without taking action as a result of the closed session.


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