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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Coleman High School Returns To Full Time Classes April 5

Issue Date: March 10, 2021

By unanimous vote at its meeting on Monday, March 8, Coleman supported a recommendation from Superintendent/High School Principal Doug Polomis to return high school students to five days per week of in-school classes beginning at the start of the Fourth Quarter on Monday, April 5.

The board also agreed to award a bid for construction of the long-discussed restroom facilities at the baseball/softball complex to locally-owned KBM Construction at a price of $170,212, which was second lowest of the eight bids received for the project. Low bid of $155,975 was submitted by MJI Building Services of Appleton.

However, after discussion at their meeting just prior to the 7 p,.m. meeting of the full board, members of the Building and Grounds Committee recommended selecting the locally owned contractor. That recommendation came after comments from Joanne Nowak that a local contractor would employ more local personnel and from Corey Kuchta that a local company would more likely be able to get donations toward the project than someone from out of town and to add nice touches without added cost.

Scott Herzog, apparently in response to frustration over Covid-19 regulations, wondered if they would ever be able to use the new facility, but ultimately supported the project, and selection of KBM to build it.

Board Chair Ryan Wendt had some strong reservations about not selecting the low bidder, but ultimately voted with the rest of the board to hire KBM.

Among other actions at the meeting the board approved the retirement of long-time elementary teacher Judy Brown, hiring of Melanie Markiewicz as JV1 Volleyball Coach, and summer school courses as explained by Elementary/Middle School Principal Yvette Marshall. They also accepted a donation toward Accelerated Reader from Penny Baker.

After concluding other business the board went into closed executive session to discuss administrator contracts, and then returned to open session to approve contract renewals for Polomis, Marshall and Finance Director Lori Beland before adjourning.

All board members were present for the meeting in addition to Marshall, Polomis, Administrative Assistant Lori Karban and 10 members of the public.

Three members of the public addressed the board during time for public comment.

First was Kris Lahners, who said in all her 26 years of teaching, "Nothing can match this year." She said the year has been mentally exhausting for teachers, who had to revise class plans and teaching schedules while keeping their students' learning and well being as their first concern. She said if it was up to her, she would keep the current format, but otherwise strongly urged the board to bring back high school students only four days a week and leave Wednesdays open for other work the teachers have to do, including providing help for students who continue to choose virtual classes. She noted coleman is one of the schools that has made it this far without having to close due to Covid exposure.

Lahners said teachers have had to work extremely hard this year, and had to modify class plans and work schedules to do blended classes. She said some students do much better in a small class environment like the current cohort model with two days in class and two days virtual, and those students may feel left behind when they return to full time and full class size. "Five days a week will be a huge adjustment for everyone," she declared, while urging the board to keep Wednesdays open for helping virtual and struggling students and doing other work rather than having to teach in-person classes five days per week.

High school student Sylvia Fochesato urged the board to offer choice in education, and said having two days per week of on-line classes and two of in-school has worked for her, although it was difficult at first. She said students who succeeded in on-line learning should continue to have that option.

The third and final speaker was Barbara Payette, who teaches in the Pembine School District but lives in Coleman, where her child attends school. She said in Pembine students have been attending class five days per week right along, and it has been very successful, and added she as a parent has been very patient with Coleman continuing the two days per week of in-person classes. She said her child is a 4.0 grade point student, but is struggling with the current two days per week schedule.

Payette read the Coleman School District mission statement, which declares, "The School District of Coleman is committed to providing a high quality education that promotes well-rounded and life-long learners. We will provide learning experiences necessary for students to achieve greatness and become productive world citizens."

She felt the current model does not meet the needs of the students, and also does not achieve equality between elementary, middle school and high school students.

Payette said there is disappointment among many parents that this has taken so long to come to a vote, but felt most would speak in favor of resuming five days per week classes.

When the subject came up for board discussion, Polomis reminded them that back on August 3 they had voted to go to a blended learning program for high school, but the elementary/middle school has been face to face five days a week for the duration.

"That this year has been a challenge has not been a secret," Polomis declared.

He cited figures showing that the number of Covid cases in the county and locally has dropped significantly in recent weeks, and the school has had no cases in students or teachers in several weeks.

He said this seems to be the time to get back to full time learning in school, and the start of the new quarter seems like the logical time to do it. He said they are still working out plans for some things, like seating at lunch time, but most of the plans are in place for social distancing and other safety precautions.

Board member Jamie Hoida said he favored going back to five days a week, but thought they could only do it at the semester. He also was concerned about the block scheduling remaining in place, and felt students will have a hard time having only four classes per day, especially if they dislike one of them and have to sit through it for an hour and a half every day.

Kuchta agreed that is a problem. However, he strongly urged getting back to five days per week classes, even though his own children have adjusted "too well" to going to school only two days a week and do not want to go back to five days per week.

Polomis said some core classes will have 24 students, "and that's an unavoidable fact," but seating charts will be maintained for all classes,lunch room seating and on the bus so contact tracing can be done if necessary. He said he had talked with the school nurse and she too agreed this would be a good time to go back.

Wendt noted by then all the teachers who want them will have been able to receive vaccinations. Students who are ill can still stay home. He said Mrs. Lahners made some valid points, and agreed the transition back will be hard, but praised the teachers as being excellent at their jobs and agreed, "I feel we've got the tools in place and it's time to re-open...to get our students back in school, learning and socializing.

To questions from the board, Polomis said masks will still be required, and 90 percent of students are good about wearing them. Driver's ed classes will resume on April 13 and be offered in summer as well, band will likely be back, and youth sports should again be able to use the school buildings provided only Coleman residents are involved. Plans for resuming fine arts things like musical performances remain to be completed.

Nowak asked how teachers could manage going back to five days a week of in-school classes and still handle students doing virtual learning.

Polomis explained the in-class teachers have not been doing on-line teaching. There are three teachers assigned to the virtual learners. They are Michelle Collins for elementary, Amy Wagner for grades 6 thru 9, and Linsey Allen for grades 10, 11 and 12. He said students who choose to stay home can switch to the virtual teachers.

Prior to approving bills for payment, Nowak questioned hiring a scheduling consultant. Polomis explained that thanks to getting professional help they were able to get the scheduling done in a day and a half, and said the counselors greatly appreciate the help and it helps immensely for future planning purposes.


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