Coronavirus concerns dominated the regular Osceola School Board meeting Wednesday, July 15.
Most notably was the agenda item about hiring health aides.
Superintendent Mark Luebker presented the School District’s case for the why.
“As we discussed within the reopening plan,” Luebker said, “to help in the event we would have kids . . . in an isolation room, I would recommend that we consider hiring up to four temporary positions.”
Following Luebker’s statement, questions arose regarding the logistics of having potentially four additional staff on the school grounds.
Board President Brooke Kulzer asked about handling the insecurity of the health aide job. The need for a health aide might not extend throughout the entire school year with school closings a possibility.
“Would there be some sort of a period of letting them know we won’t need [them] any further?” Kulzer asked.
There are still uncertainties about how many health aides would be hired and how their potential mid-school year dismissal will be handled.
The board wanted to know whether it was worth it or not to hire the health aides. Some emphasized that the aides would not be certified nurse assistants; rather, they would provide additional help for the district nurse, Rachael Robinson.
“Under my license, an unlicensed [person] can do nursing stuff,” Robinson said. “During a normal work week, I rotate in the buildings, and when I’m not in the buildings, then administrative assistants man the health room.”
The problem is, if a COVID-19 outbreak happens in the school, Robinson will be overwhelmed with only a few administrative assistants to keep the virus spread at bay. On the other hand, if COVID cases are minimal, or if the school quickly switches to an online model, the health aides might unnecessarily harm the school’s budget.
Robinson argued that even if Coronavirus doesn’t cause a problem during the school year, there are plenty of ways to put the health aides to good use.
“The health room is always being used,” Robinson said. “If there isn’t a kid in an isolation room, there’s injuries, there’s medications, there’s always things going on in that room.”
Coronavirus precautions add more work for Robinson, such as cleaning and sanitizing areas and enforcing health guidelines.
Vice president Brian Meyer voiced his concerns before a motion was made. There was too much uncertainty to add more people to the payroll if the whole school goes virtual.
“I just— I struggle with hiring four,” Meyer said, “and not knowing where we’re going to be.”
Treasurer Lynnette Johnson, who joined the meeting via telephone, motioned for the decision to be tabled until the Aug. 5 board meeting in order to gather more details about the situation. The motion passed.
Osceola Virtual Academy
A few items earlier in the agenda, the board reviewed and approved the Osceola Virtual Academy, following a lengthy discussion.
Dr. Rebecca Styles, Director of Instruction, explained the preparations for the virtual academy and the feedback received from parents and students.
“Once people see the commitment and what it’s going to require of them, it may seem like a great option for some,” Styles said. “Online learning is not for everybody.”
Enrollment for the Virtual Academy is uncertain, and that could mean more expenses for the budget.
“The loss would be,” said Pete Kammerud, the School Board clerk, “if we have students [in-class] opt-out to the virtual. Because we’re already getting the state aids on them, and we’re going to pay for the virtual. So that’s the losing situation.”
Because of how quickly situations can change, it’s impossible to predict the future of enrollment this semester.
“I also think,” said board member Kysa Marten, “if we’re going to open up our school five days a week with how things are, our parents need another option. Because there’s a heck of a lot of people that aren’t going to be comfortable sending their kids back to school five days a week.”
Marten made the first motion to approve the Virtual Academy, but there was no second.
Further discussion ensued.
“I know it’s best for some kids,” Meyer said, “but in this situation, should our taxpayers take on all of that as well? We don’t know what the cost will be, and we’re talking about things like hazard pay and all the unforeseen costs that go into that. And how do we be respectful to the people who are already having to pay for all of this?”
Marten motioned to approve the Virtual Academy again. This time it passed by a 3-2 vote with Kulzer and Kammerud joining Marten on the “yes” votes.
The following personnel changes were approved:
Hires – Caroline Jundt, OMS Social Studies; Ryan Sauve, OHS Social Studies; Amy Gillespie, Girls Assistant Tennis Coach. Resignations – Jordan Hansen, OHS Physical Education; Crystal Rachick, OMS Physical Education.
Administrator reports contained a wide variety of shout outs and thank yous to various staff.
Kammerud wrapped up the emotional night with a notable statement.
“We’re in a situation right now where no matter what we do, it’s going to be wrong,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time, and for once, I’d love to be in a win-win situation. And, I’ve never been there, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in a lose-lose situation. And right now, that’s where I feel like we’re in. It’s too bad. It’s beyond our control.”