On August 13, the Mabel-Canton School Board held a special meeting, with only one agenda item: planning for the upcoming school year. Athletic Director Lonnie Morken gave the board an update on sports, saying that the plan is for football and volleyball to have their seasons in the spring, roughly March 15-May 15. Other fall sports (cross country, soccer, tennis, and swimming/diving) will have their seasons this fall. The board then had lengthy discussion about what learning model (in-person, distance learning, or some combination or “hybrid”) to use. After nearly three hours, no decision was reached, so the board tabled the decision until the regular meeting on August 18.
Mabel-Canton’s School Board held a regular meeting on August 18. The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing the options for how to open the school year. The district has developed a plan to cover the three basic scenarios that might be needed in the upcoming school year (school opened to all students as usual, or 100% distance learning, or some type of “hybrid” of each). The board voted to approve the overall plan, and also voted to begin this school year with all students (grades K-12) in school every school day. Following the vote, which was four to three in favor of opening fully for in-person learning, Kuphal summarized, “Based upon your actions tonight,… everybody’s in school, five days a week.” Principal Michelle Wiedemann added one correction, stating, “The first day of school September 8, K through 6 does not come that day, because there’ll be scheduled testing. I would recommend leaving that the same.”
Superintendent Gary Kuphal pointed out that, due to state requirements, Mabel-Canton may need to switch to a more restrictive method of instruction if/when the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate reaches certain thresholds. He explained that schools are welcome to (but not required to) switch to less restrictive models (when allowed based on the most recent positivity rates), but are required to move to more restrictive models when dictated by the positivity percentages.
However, Kuphal said there are still many unanswered questions, such as what exactly is meant by “immediately” in the expectation that schools would immediately move to a more restrictive model when the numbers reach a threshold. He said if moving to a more restrictive model, no board decision would be required, since that would be simply following state directives. Kuphal also suggested that if the numbers allow for a possible move to a less restrictive model, the board could consider that during the regular monthly board meeting. Kuphal said he hopes to avoid having the school switch back and forth frequently between different learning models.
Kuphal and the board discussed the option for students and their families to “opt out” of in-person learning and stay home for distance learning. When asked how many “opt outs” Mabel-Canton has so far, Principal Wiedemann said there are eight elementary students, and eight high school students opting out as of the latest count, which was about two weeks ago. Kuphal forewarned the board that those numbers may change in either direction as families learn more about Mabel-Canton’s plans for the school year. Kuphal stated that the expectation is that families will have the opportunity to change their “opt out” status once each quarter.
Another discussion item regarding the upcoming school year was the proposal to offer an “open campus lunchtime” for senior students only. Principal Wiedemann explained that seniors wishing to participate in the open campus option would need to submit a form signed by parent/guardian, and would need to list a phone number at which the parent/guardian could be reached. Driving or riding in motor vehicles during the open campus lunchtime would be forbidden. She also explained the grade and attendance requirements, and other details related to the open campus privilege, and she stressed, “This is a privilege, not a right.” The board approved the plan as outlined by Wiedemann.
The board approved the fundraising list for the upcoming school year. It includes a total of slightly over 40 fundraiser events, held by the various classes, clubs and teams. Kuphal pointed out that depending on the COVID-19 situation, some of the planned events could be altered, postponed or canceled as the school year unfolds.
Kuphal asked board members to give feedback, rather than a formal decision, about whether or not to allow the band to participate in the Steam Engine Days parade. The consensus from the board was that if enough band members wish to participate, they may do so.
Principal Michelle Wiedemann reported that the annual Community Volunteer Day was held on Sunday, August 16, and went very well. She estimated that 25-30 people participated, doing tasks such as painting, moving furniture, weeding and other duties. She summarized that, “A lot of work got done… it’s a huge help.”
Mabel-Canton’s next regular board meeting will be September 15 at 6 p.m.