Shenandoah school board approves pandemic response

The Shenandoah School Board is taking additional steps in response to the global outbreak of COVID-19.

During a special meeting Monday, March 23 via teleconference, the Shenandoah School Board approved a resolution for pandemic response and emergency suspension of policy. The resolution authorizes Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson to close any school facility without further action by the board. It also allows the superintendent based upon the needs of the district and guidance from health and government agencies, to direct staff assignments during the closures, including but not limited to essential employees who must report to work, employees who may be reassigned, and employees whose services are not needed.

“We have as many of our employees actively engaged in working as possible at this time,” said Nelson. “We have our kitchen staff that is operational, preparing meals. Our drivers are delivering those into neighborhoods. We have secretaries that are managing their work from home environments. And, we have teachers who are very busy meeting, actually as we are now, in ZOOM sessions like this. They are preparing supplemental learning materials for their students.”

The suspension of the policy also authorizes the superintendent to limit access to public school grounds and public school buildings during district closures. It also allows the superintendent to place hourly nonexempt employees on paid administrative leave, and to continue to pay them for up to four weeks during the period of school closure. The board shall reevaluate the authority for any school closure lasting longer than four weeks.

“This is intended to be temporary and only enacted during the pandemic time period,” said Nelson. “It will require that I continue to communicate with the board about decisions that are made. It is important to keep everyone informed about what is happening. We do not know how long the pandemic will last, but we are preparing ourselves and the district so we can continue to provide service and conduct business as necessary.”

Nelson said she is pleased with the general response from the support staff that has been volunteering to work outside of their classifications. She acknowledged they were putting themselves at some risk, but we’re willing to do this because they want to make sure that our kids can be successful.

The Shenandoah school district is tentatively closed until April 13.

“We are in the first week of a four-week closure by the state,” said Nelson. “While I can’t predict this any more than anyone else can, other than I know that today (Monday), we hit 105 cases in Iowa, and they are coming closer to our environment. Missouri is seeing more cases, as well.”

Nelson said she had received questions as to what students should be doing during the school closure.

“Similar to summer, it becomes unstructured time for students,” said Nelson. “We recognize this concern and are also concerned about the impact it has on student learning.”

Nelson said now that spring break is over, staff have begun gathering supplemental learning activities for students to engage in while they are home.

“The materials may include online resources, recommended activities to do at home, and or pencil-paper activities,” said Nelson. “While these won’t necessarily be graded, the activities will help students continue to learn and use time in a productive, meaningful way.”

Nelson said learning resources provided to students would look different by each grade level and will be tailored to support different levels of ability.

“Currently, we are closed until April 13 and we do plan to reopen on this date,” said Nelson. “However, the threat of COVID-19 is a very real concern and we will make our decision to reopen or extend the closure with the most current information we have available at the time. It is just too early to make that decision at this time.”

In other business, the board approved the consent agenda by a 4-to-1 vote. Items included were contracts for Stephanie Cran as high school math instructor and William Flowers as eighth-grade math instructor and assistant high school football coach. Also were the resignations of K-8 Principal Monte Munsinger, fourth-grade instructor Madison Johnson and K-12 strategist 2 behavior skills program instructor Tiffany Stanton.

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