School principals gave a COVID-19 update to the Baldwin-Woodville School Board during its monthly board meeting Nov. 16.
The high school update, frankly, wasn’t good.
To begin, as of the meeting date, the high school had 11 active cases.
Principal Dave Brandvold explained the mood among the students is noticeable. He told the story of a student being back in the building for a day or two, and then having to be sent home again because of close contact with a COVID-19 positive student.
“I’ve seen children go home crying,” he continued. “I’ve been on the phone with moms who are crying. It’s sad. Students have asked me, ‘What are we going to do?’”
Board member John Hanson then asked, “What do you need from us?”
Brandvold echoed Superintendent Eric Russell’s recommendation from earlier: Going hybrid the entire month of December. It would reduce the chances of close contacts, which means fewer children having to be sent home.
“Get everyone on one track of learning,” he concluded.
Brandvold presented the scenario in which children with the last name A-K would be in-person Mondays and Tuesdays, while L-Z would be face-to-face Wednesdays and Thursdays. Fridays would consist of students having a question and answer session with teachers over Google Meet. The rest of their time would consist of planning and grading.
Going hybrid would help with staff, as well, he continued.
“Teachers wouldn’t be teaching multiple times to the same class,” he said. “They are struggling. They are at their wits end. They are just spent.”
Board member Jay Larson originally proposed a motion, which called for the high school to remain as is, with the difference being the addition of three staff development days in December, January and February respectively.
That motion died as Ken Dykhouse and Todd Graf agreed with him, but Hanson, Denise Monicken and Jolene Bonte voted no. (Brad Coplan was absent).
The second motion was to go with the administration’s recommendation of the hybrid model for the high school. In addition, Viking Middle School and Greenfield Elementary wouldn’t have school on the three Fridays in December (4, 11 and 18) as well.
That motion passed as Dykhouse switched his vote.
“What’s it’s going to be like in January?” Larson said, when it’s reported COVID-19 cases are predicted to be worse than currently.
Principal Scott Benoy didn’t give as dire an outlook as Brandvold did for the high school.
Yet, it wasn’t all a bed of roses for Viking Middle School.
The close contacts numbers aren’t as large at the middle school, he said, but with the constant reminder of cohorting and social distancing, the joy students have of being at school, isn’t there, he opined. It’s noticeable among staff as well.
“I think there’s an amount of anticipation of people looking around to see who is next,” he said. “When is the other shoe going to drop?”
What also concerned Benoy was he was at Kwik Trip before the board meeting and he saw a fair amount of people who didn’t have facial coverings. In addition, with deer hunting, Thanksgiving and Christmas coming down the docket, people are going to celebrate those festivities no matter if they are told not to, he opined.
“From an administration perspective, it’s total chaos all the time,” said elementary principal Tiffanie Grodevant. “We are running frantically. But, I feel like we are doing the best we can to make things run as smoothly as possible.”
Along with Benoy’s line of thinking, she too, expressed concern, about the level of COVID-19 safety in the public, especially if the district is forced to close its doors for any length of time.
“The environment we’ve established at our school is very safe for children,” she said. “It’s not fun having to send children home.”
Out of the 684 children in the building, she added, only four parents have asked about going virtual.