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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Crivitz School Board Grapples With Covid-19 School Rules

Issue Date: November 25, 2020

Concerns over issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic again occupied much of the discussion at the Crivitz School Board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

During time for public comment at the start of the meeting, district resident Pete Pfankuch argued strongly against requiring athletes - particularly football players and wrestlers - to wear masks during practice and competition. He cited reports that kids could pass out or even die from over-exertion while deprived of oxygen by a mask.

"When someone dies, then you'll answer it!" Pfankuch retorted in regard to what he appeared to feel was lack of an adequate response to some of his questions and comments concerning the possibility that mask requirements during exertion could pose a life threatening condition for student athletes.

Board President Mike Dama said his daughter had chosen not to go out for sports this year because of masks, "but that was her choice."

Pfankuch then asked what would cause school authorities to switch to on-learning rather than in-person classes, and was told that more than five active coronavirus cases would close a building or portions of it, perhaps three to five individual classrooms. This could be a combination of students and staff having positive results to a Covid-19 test.

After long discussion on what High School Principal Jeff Baumann termed a dismal record for many high school students who have chosen the virtual model of attending school, the board agreed informally to support an administrative proposal that the virtual option will be retained, but in order to continue in the virtual program students will need to virtually attend at least 80 percent of their classes and earn passing grades in all classes. Those who fail to meet this criteria will be required to return to in-school classes, and if they do not, they and their families could be subject to truancy fines that could be as much as $178 per day for the student plus $274 per day for the student's family. The only exception would be for those who stay at home due to doctor's orders.

A high school teacher in the audience said he had sent 50 letters that week to parents of at-home students who are not doing their work. He told of one student who had stopped doing his work on the day he left in-person classes. After he contacted the parents that student came now back in school, where he is once again doing well.

Baumann said of a class of 40 seniors there are now 10 who will not graduate unless they are able to do some significant makeup work.

Mans said any student who is failing can get help, and if they are failing it is because they made a conscious decision not to do their required work. Some who chose the virtual class model are working at full time jobs, and others choose to play video games rather than participate in school classes.

At the start of the discussion on adding the new rules for those who choose the virtual learning model rather than traditional in-person classes, Mans told the board there have been some major issues with virtual students not doing their work.

Baumann declared a large segment of the high school's virtual population has been failing to do the required work, and there has not been a lot of accountability. "Virtual is not working out, and we don't have to offer it," he said at one point.

He said he has been spending some 75 percent of his time trying to contact parents of virtual students who were failing.

He said 73 percent of the high school students are in school, and they account for only 23 percent of the F grades for this year's first quarter. He also described the quarter as "the worst two months I've ever had...It's horrible!"

He said attendance is bad, but while the "F" list is only slightly bigger than usual for the virtual students, "the Fs are a lot worse." He explained the lower the grade point of the F the less chance there is that a student can make it up and earn a passing grade for the quarter, and therefore gain a credit needed for graduation.

Baumann said one student in a citizenship class required for graduation had earned only .7 of a percent toward a passing grade. Another got 2 percent, and multiple virtual students have grades of less than 15 to 20 percent, all very difficult to make up in the second half of the semester. Overall, Baumann said about one quarter of Crivitz High School students chose the virtual education model, but they account for three quarters of the total Fs. Of 36 high school students with 50 or more absences, 28 are virtual education students.

Board Member Amy Grandaw felt if 23 percent of the seniors are in danger of not graduating the board had to do something.

Mans and Baumann both supported a proposal that in order to stay "virtual" for the second semester, students will need to have at least an 80 percent attendance rate and earn passing grades for course work during the second quarter, which just started. Students who do not meet those goals will be required to come back to full time to in-person classes. The only exceptions would be for those who have doctor's orders to stay at home.

Mans said every kid could meet the minimal requirements and teachers will work with them. He declared that any student who fails has made a conscious decision not to do their work.

A teacher in the audience agreed that a large percentage of the virtual students who are now failing had been earning 3.4 and 3.5 grade levels while attending in-person classes. He said one student pushed into coming back did more in five days at school than he had done in the entire two months that he was at home. He said many virtual students are "... playing the system, working at full time jobs and pretending to go to school." He said he had sent out 50 e-mails this week to families of virtual students who are not doing their work.

Elementary Principal Kelly Robison said she has few problems with younger virtual model students, but favors the proposed new rule for students in grades 7 and 8.

She said perhaps seven or eight of her Middle School students are failing to participate, including some who "...haven't done a single thing in a single class for three weeks." Two Aeschylus students have done two history assignments in three weeks. "Some, after we contacted their families, got to work and started passing," Robinson said, some and added that some parents are working and the younger kids are in the care of older brothers and sisters.

Mans said he was not in favor of taking away the option for virtual choice that the board had made at the start of the year, but was in favor of making use of the second quarter to make sure they attend 80 percent of the classes and pass them, or the choice is gone. He added that families who have great concern about bringing home the virus will make sure their students participate in the classes and do passing work.

Dama asked what was being done to help kids who are failing. Baumann said they have individual plans for each of them, for example one junior who has no chance to pass a number of his classes is being given a chance to take at least one additional Aeschylus remote learning class to make up lost credits. Others are being offered alternative school options. As of this week, one mom whose son has seven Fs had agreed to let her son come back to in-person classes and is doing much better. "It's an individual thing, different for each," Baumann declared.

Mans said if the virtual students who are failing now are still failing at the end of the quarter, they will be attending in person for the second semester. Their option will be gone."

Eventually the the board informally rejected a proposal to eliminate the virtual option entirely, and expressed support for the recommended requirement for students to pass every class and maintain at least an 80 percent attendance rate or return to in-person classes.

Moving on to other business, Mans noted that Gov. Tony Evers' statewide mask mandate had been due to expire on Friday, Nov. 20, which would have meant the board could choose to end the rules requiring all students and staff to wear masks while in the building. However, he had learned earlier in the day that Evers had extended the mask requirement to mid-January, so that option is gone.

The board was advised that students would be dismissed early on Friday, Nov. 20 for Thanksgiving Break, and return to classes on Monday, Nov. 30. Elementary and high school offices were to remain open on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 23 and 24, and then be closed for the remainder of the week.

Mans thanked Elementary Principal Kelly Robinson for coordinating the Veterans Day ceremony, "which, though brief, provided for at east some recognition of our veterans." He also thanked Mr. Allard and Mr. Kropfhammer for providing music for the program, which was held outside at the Elementary/Middle School. Mans commented that though a bit chilly, the weather had cooperated by providing a sunny day for the event.

After long discussion the board unanimously agreed that Hi-Q coaches and advisors will be compensated for the season, although competition or the team has been cancelled for the year due to Covid-19. In response to questions from board members, Baumann said before the Hi-Q program was canceled for this year, coaches had selected their nine team members, distributed some training materials, and had done other preparation work. He could not say if they had or had not held practice sessions.

Arguing in favor of compensating the Hi-Q coaches, board member Lyle Cherry commented they had signed a contract, coaches for other extra-curricular activities had been paid when seasons were eliminated or shortened, and they want the Hi-Q coaches to come back next year. Baumann said there may be a possibility of some virtual competitions and some Quiz Bowl events later this year. Cherry commented that even the football team had been quarantined for two weeks.

The board approved Irene Bauer, Myranda Karban, Nancy Dahlin and Penny Kempke-Cole as substitute paraprofessionals, and Victoria Chapman, Melissa Opperman, Baeley Bovee-Hanson and Tracey Doyen as sports volunteers/coaches.

They also approved a request from advisors Nick Schramm, Matt Bernier and Shane Graves that they be given permission to ski this year. They said the club would follow all school rules as far as masks and social distancing. After discussion the board agreed that not only would the club be allowed to ski, they would be allowed to use the school vans to take part in outings for their sport this year. Board member Kris Heidewald was particularly opposed to requiring students to use private transportation for school sanctioned events.

Robinson told the board that 7th and 8th grade students had participated in the local VFW essay contest with the theme, "What it means to be a patriot." Kira Ruark won first place, Layla Bieschke won second, and James Caine won third.

Students had again taken part in the virtual American Heart Association's "Jump Rope For Heart Challenge," and raised money for a great cause.

Mrs. Spalding had organized the school celebration of World Kindness Day on Friday, Nov. 13. Students and staff took part in random acts of kindness, sending kind messages to others and "Spreading kindness like confetti," she said.

Baumann congratulated the nine new High School inductees to this year's National Honor Society. They are Breyanna Krause, Hannah Busick, Ashton Butnick, Maggie Dama, Isabella Galindo, Fox Gerner, Eli Gruszynski, Joseph Pickett, and Mc Kenna Sellen. Baumann said advisor James Kirchberg informally inducted the group in a ceremony before school, but they hope to hold a formal induction ceremony at Renee's Dining room for indctees and their parents on March 15. He thanked Kirchberg for all his hard work.

Baumann also thanked Crivitz Lions Club for their generous donation of $200 to the school district for purchases for the Crivitz School Clothes Closet. He also thanked Counselors Alexandria Graves and Toni Spalding for their work on the closet, and said the donated money will be used to buy items for students to wear during winter and spring seasons.

Baumann wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, and said during the Thanksgiving break the boys basketball team and the wrestling team will begin their seasons, while the girls basketball team had started its first day of practice on Monday, Nov. 23.

Buildings, Grounds and Transportation Director Tom White expressed thanks to Alex Graves for work she had done to obtain a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Justice to provide nine additional cameras at the Elementary/Middle School. The cameras will be installed during the Thanksgiving Break, White said.

Also during Thanksgiving Break, White said during Thanksgiving break the custodial/maintenance staff will take advantage of students being out of the buildings to do some cleaning and maintenance tasks, including preventative maintenance on air handling equipment, painting in the high school gym, and deep cleaning of classrooms and high use areas.

White reported he had met recently with a representative from Faith Technologies, an electrical design and engineering firm, in search of information and recommendations for upgrading outdoor lighting at the high school. They are putting together budget numbers and fixture specifications to be used if and when the project is let for bids, hopefully this spring.

White also had met with a representative from masonary contractor R. J. Jacques to review tuck pointing needs at the Elementary/Middle School. The contractor will revise and update their original proposal from 2018 and provide a prioritized plan and budget estimates, White said.


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