MINSTER – A sharp increase in COVID-19 quarantines and their causes were discussed at the Oct. 19 meeting of the Minster Board of Education.
Superintendent Brenda Boeke said the total number of quarantined students since the beginning of school rose by 21 in the past four days. As of Monday, she said there were 13 quarantined elementary students and 13 quarantined high school students.
Boeke said the increase in quarantined students was not associated with exposure to cases within the school. Currently, she said there is one active staff case at the elementary school and one active student case at the high school.
Instead, she said the increase in quarantines is directly related to what is happening outside of school. For example, Boeke went on to explain the Thanksgiving Dance promoted on social media is not sponsored by the school. She emphasized that it is events such as this that have caused area schools to have to cancel athletic contests and go back to remote learning.
Boeke urged parents, students, staff and community members to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms, and when they are out in public please wear masks, social distance and wash their hands.
High School Principal Austin Kaylor added he knows there are people talking about not getting tested. He reiterated while it is not the school district’s job to tell anyone what health decisions to make or not make regarding testing, he knows some people have to get tested whether it is for work, upcoming medical procedures or because people are high risk.
He went on to implore district families to take precautions no matter what they think of the virus, its origins or its dangers.
Elementary Principal Leanne Keller shared her concern about the impact the quarantines are having on their youngest students. She also said increasing COVID numbers can have a serious impact on the health needs of the district staff and their ability to adequately staff each building.
Keller agreed that pressuring students and staff to not test is an unhealthy message to promote.
Boeke told the board a school messenger request will be sent to parents on Tuesday, asking everyone to work together to help reduce the number of students who must be quarantined.
Keller reported that kindergarten students on reading improvement monitoring plans are scoring a little higher than usual this year. She said her first principal’s advisory meeting was held and the parents were pleased with how the year is progressing.
The advisory members said discussions going home are not about the safety measures we have in place but are about learning and friends.
Kaylor updated the results of the girls and boys golf team, congratulating the boys for participating at the state match this past weekend.
He also said virtual college representatives offered information with interested juniors and seniors. He said there were 16 juniors taking the PSAT.
Kaylor reported his Principal’s Advisory Committee meeting will be held Oct. 21.
Kindergarten teacher Mandy Bornhorst and Title I Reading Specialist Kim Schwieterman updated the board about the school’s curriculum and instruction programs. They demonstrated how the use of the Heggerty Curriculum for teaching phonemic awareness actively engages students while learning their sounds.
School District Treasurer Laura Klosterman’s reported insurance open enrollment is taking place right now with a deadline of Nov. 13. She added that 31% of the employees had completed enrollment.
Additionally, she said the free lunch program will continue throughout the rest of the school year for students. She said that when ODE provides the district with guidance they will share that guidance with district families.
Klosterman also said residential new construction at the current millage has resulted in an estimated increase of $52,000 in real estate tax.
The board also approved the treasurer to set up a trust fund account for the purpose of resurfacing the track and approved a now and then certificate for the payment of NWEA MAP assessments.
The board approved the following personnel recommendations: the resignation for the purpose of retirement at the end of the 2020-21 school year, for high school English teacher and librarian Rebecca Dues and sixth-grade math teacher Lori Brunswick; a limited one-year contract for Deb Knapke, substitute custodian; Michael McClurg, Curt Albers, Logan Sommer, Brian Stephey and Dan Wente as coaches in the boys basketball program, Mike Wiss, Shelly Wolf, LeAnn Huelsman, Matt Oakesand Eric Belcheras coaches in the girls basketball program; Dawn Schwieterman and Logan Pfeifer swimming coaches; Brian Schmiesing boys bowling coach and Jeff Blanke girls bowling coach. Dennis Prenger was approved as a girls basketball volunteer.
The board then went into executive session for the purpose of employment and compensation of a public employee. No action was taken.
The next board meeting will be Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.