Chamois R-1 amends COVID plan

By Theresa Brandt, Staff Writer
Posted 1/20/22

Chamois R-1 school board members at their Jan. 12 meeting amended the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (SRCSP) to align with the new guidance from the Center for …

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Chamois R-1 amends COVID plan

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Chamois R-1 school board members at their Jan. 12 meeting amended the Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan (SRCSP) to align with the new guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The district’s SRCSP will be modified so that if a person tests positive for COVID-19 they would stay out of school for five days. After those five days, if they had no symptoms, they would be allowed to come back to school if they wear a mask for an additional five days. Individuals that are identified as close contacts who are fully vaccinated would be able to remain in school if they wear a mask for 10 days. Individuals that are identified as close contacts and who are not fully vaccinated will have to stay out of school for five days and can return to school if they have no further symptoms and agree to wear a mask for an additional five days while in school or they can participate in the test-to-stay program. 

“The Osage County Health Department has said that they share that guidance and that is what they would recommend as well,” Superintendent Lyle Best said. “They were very adamant about following through with the entire recommendation.”

Best said that the local health department stressed that wearing the masks for an additional five days once returning to school was an important part of the guidance.

The district’s SRCSP will be updated to reflect these recommendations.

The board has been reviewing and amending the school’s SRCSP every month to comply with Missouri statutes. Best believes the requirement to revisit the plan every month may be changing since the state of Missouri is no longer under a formal State of Emergency.

“It won’t hurt my feelings if we don’t have to revisit this every month,” Best said.

In other business, no one has filed for two school board positions.

“We know that will leave it to the write-in votes,” Best said. 

He suggested that members of the current school board brainstorm to come up with individuals from the community who might be interested and do a good job serving on the school board and approach them and encourage them to run as a write-in candidate.

“Last time, we had one or two people who had one or two votes each,” Best explained. “Then we had to contact them all and they didn’t even know that they had been put down (as a write-in candidate).”

Best admitted that some of the people currently sitting on the board were write-ins that accepted the position and have served in the positions very well. 

The two school board seats that are open will be those currently held by Kurt Kuschel and Glen Keilholz.

* Best presented the school board with a preliminary school calendar for the 2022-23 school year. 

“It is basically the mirror image of what we are doing now,” Best explained. 

The preliminary calendar puts the start date on Aug. 22 and the last day for students at school on May 9. Christmas break would be planned for Dec. 22 through Jan. 2, with classes resuming on Jan. 3. The calendar includes a week of spring break from April 3-7.

The proposed calendar has the same 149 days of regular in-class instruction and 14 built-in makeup days as the current 2021-22 calendar. 

The only possible change that was proposed by school district staff was to extend the school year by one week in May and then use those five extra days to give students and staff extra days off sprinkled through February and March.

Principal Jeremey McKague will survey school staff for recommendations and report back to the school board.

* Best presented the school board with the annual update for the school district’s wellness plan. Best noted that the wellness plan is posted on the school’s website and overall, the school received a good review.

The district has participated in the “Farm to School” program by purchasing produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and broccoli from Nolte Hills Nursery.  

“We are not promoting that as well as we should, which is kinda part of the ‘farm to school’ program,” Best explained. “That needs to be a focus area.”

Best hopes to incorporate some University of Missouri (MU) Extension activities into the classroom. Last year, this was hard to do since a lot of services through MU were done remotely due to COVID-19. The school district plans to continue again this year to have some crossover between the high school Plant Science students and elementary students. High school students help elementary students plant various vegetable seeds and then teach younger students about taking care of the plants. The students learn about the plant life cycle and take the plant home.

Best explained that there are several things required in the annual report including listing school district goals, listing physical activities available for students, and a list of all the foods that the school district offers for sale as well as a compiled list of the school district’s breakfast and lunch menus. 

One of the issues Best would like the school to address is that almost all the foods offered in the school’s vending machines and as al a carte items fail to meet the smart snack compliance.

“We’ll have to figure out how to address that or ignore the guidance, which I don’t think is good,” Best said. 

“I’m looking through the list and it’s pretty much all junk,” School Board President Steve Cramer said.

“Usually, the student council or other student groups use the money,” Best explained. “So, it’s not as if the district itself is collecting the revenues from (the vending machines) and keeping it but it is something we’ll have to look at it to see if we can improve things.”

* Porter, Berendzen, and Associates plan to present the master plan for the school district at the February meeting. Jon Berendzen will be at the meeting to answer questions and discuss how the school district can move forward. 

“That’s where our agreement with them stops,” Best explained. “If we want to go farther, then we would be talking about design. That would be the next step in the process.”

* L.J. Hart and Company, a municipal bond underwriting firm, will present a brief proposal of their services to the school district at the February meeting. 

“They will present what their services are in terms of financial planning and underwriting for a school district for construction projects or anything that might have to be financed so that we know what works and what the options are,” Best explained.

He noted that the school district has only received one proposal for underwriting as of Jan. 14.

* The school board approved $61,733.07 in outstanding bills for the month.

* Chamois R-1 had the following ending balances in their accounts:  general ($1,240,849), special ($223,336), and capital projects ($156,717).

* Guidance Counselor Meghan Birmingham reviewed the school counseling program. 

“We are continuing to focus on academic development, career, and post-secondary development, along with social and emotional learning,” Birmingham said. 

Working with students in grades K-12, Birmingham sees elementary students once a week where she works on various areas, and in high school, she teaches career classes, junior high career class, a family resource class, and a child development class. 

“I call it adulting 101 or how not to live in a cardboard box when you get out of school,” Birmingham said of her family resource class. “The kids seem to think that’s funny and, in those classes, we cover everything from how to do well in school, what to do to get good grades, how to make friends, go to college, and if we don’t want to go to college, what are our other options?”

Birmingham teaches students how to fill out college applications, financial aid forms for colleges as well as job applications and interviews. She organizes events for the students, including a college fair that recently attracted 20 different schools and military groups, a career fair, and a workshop to help parents and students fill out financial aid forms for college. 

Recently, Birmingham organized a career day for junior high students who went to State Technical College to see what careers are available within the college itself.  Birmingham is hoping that the University of Missouri will have a similar event in the spring. The school district also hosts the ACT for juniors as well as ACT prep for sophomore students and other tests for students to be able to take tests to help them learn what careers for which they may be best suited.

Last year, students participated in a mock crash and this year, the school continued the program with a grim reaper theme that had one student dressing up as the grim reaper and pulling students out of class to represent students that were killed in car accidents related to alcohol. The program will continue next year with the focus on what happens in the hospital when there are car accidents.

The guidance counselor also organizes lunch-and-learn opportunities for students.

“Last year, we had Osage Ambulances come in so the kids can see you don’t have to actually have a college degree to make a whole bunch of money,” Birmingham said. “You just have to find the right company and be prepared to do a lot of work. They get to see a wide spectrum of post-secondary options.”

Birmingham has had demonstrations of fire and seatbelt safety and is working on different programs for students to show off their dream jobs in movie premiers and living museums.

Recently, Birmingham has done a project called “I have a dream” with older students in which they research the career of their choice and make a video of it. Birmingham shared one memorable video produced by Tyler Brandt and Carter Brandt on the construction industry.

“They want to go into construction, and they did the video in a fun way but also told a lot about construction,” Birmingham said as she played parts of the video for the school board.

* Several elementary grade teachers discussed the tutoring program with the school board. First-grade teacher Misty Hilkerbaumer noted that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the students.

“I have a sign that I look at every day to remind me that these kids have never been in a normal classroom,” Hilkerbaumer said. “We have an intervention for a second-grade student that’s never been to school. It has changed the dynamics of our job.”

Teachers identify students that may be falling behind in class and those that might be most helped by tutoring. They use different assessments to identify students that need help and then continue these assessments throughout the year to make sure that progress is being made.

“The purpose of tutoring is to help students help themselves,” Hilkerbaumer explained. “Our goal is for them to become an independent learner so as a tutor we adapt lessons to each student’s ability and provide an intervention for each specific child.”

Other factors play into which students receive tutoring.

“Things that are also part of the decision is this kid going to come in and are they going to work?” fourth-grade teacher Katie Troesser said. “I’ve turned down kids in the past that all they want to do is social time and play and run up and down the hallways and so I’ve turned them down. And there are other factors, are the parents going to come and pick them up? That has been an issue in the past as well.”

Currently, there are four elementary teachers that tutor after school along with help from some A+ students. But the number of students needing and requesting tutoring outweighs the number of spots available. 

“Absolutely more tutors could be utilized,” Hilkerbaumer said. “The data show that anybody can tutor. It can be high school kids. It can be volunteers from the community. They just have to be given some guidance.”

The school district is hoping to have some of the students in the new Educators Rising Club be utilized as tutors.

School board members thanked the teachers who tutor for going the extra mile and helping students.

SUPERINTENDENTS REPORT

Best discussed a basic overview of the Missouri School Improvement Program 6 (MSIP 6). The program has been approved for the last two years but due to COVID-19 has been slow to be implemented. MSIP 6 will include an annual performance review and will have continuous improvement standards that will start for some schools in 2022. 

“This is pretty similar to what we currently have been using,” Best explained. “They will be using some different data, but you are going to be looking at test scores, graduation rates, and follow-up data. The biggest difference between MSIP 5 and MSIP 6 is that it looks at your daily life, (the) day-to-day practices you’re using to focus on continuously improving student achievement and growth.”

Chamois R-1 has volunteered to be a part of the pilot program but has not heard anything back about whether it will be included.

“Just about everything we are doing directly aligns to the standards and indicators of the continuous improvement model,” Best said. “I feel like we are in a good position with what we are doing. How well we do those will be the telling factor.”

* Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) reviews continue for Special Education, food service. and federal programs. 

“All of these are pretty well a full-year process,” Best explained. 

For Special Education, the district is ready to send out parent surveys to families that have students in the program. These completed surveys will be sent directly to DESE. For food service, most of the review is complete with an onsite review conducted the same day as the school board meeting. Best thought the review went well although they discussed a few things that need to be addressed.

* The district is utilizing the Seamless Summer Option to provide free lunches to students this year. The 2022 reimbursement rate for that program has increased by $.25 per meal. Breakfast reimbursement will now be $2.60 and lunch reimbursement will be $4.66.

* The radiator has been replaced in the high school English classroom and a valve fixed on the pump in the elementary boiler. The school is still having trouble with the aging heating system. 

“We’ve got things that were originally set up to create steam that have been modified, if any, to run hot water and then we’ve gone through three different versions of boilers over the course of time, so these things just really don’t line up to be the most efficient and effective,” Best explained. “There is nothing much we can do at the moment. It is going to be a long process to try to figure out what the best option is.”

* The after-school program run by Special Education teacher Daniel Montgomery is up and running. There are currently 23 elementary students and four staff members meeting every day after school for enrichment activities. School board members watched a short video of the first couple of days of the program.

“I think he’s doing a really good job with it,” Best said.

PRINCIPAL’S REPORT

McKague announced that the high school band participated in the conference competition on Jan. 6 at South Callaway High School and had a very nice performance. Junior High district band was held on Jan. 8. 

* On Jan. 20, the school will be conducting a “signs of suicide” training for students in grades 7-12.

* On Jan. 27, there will be a lunch-and-learn with Osage Ambulance District to talk about potential careers.

* The dental clinic has been postponed due to staff illness.

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