Riley County Law Board, Monday, September 21, 2020

Observer:  Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, September 21.

Derek Wood of the Corrections Division was promoted to Captain.

Corporal Dirks was given an award for his project in the Chicago operation which led to many drug arrests.

Mr. Shipley of Gordon and Associates presented the annual audit and said all expenses and income were accounted for and there was no malfeasance.

Detective Kyle said the shooting range was on schedule.

RCPD received a  $62,000 emergency award from the Justice Department that was used mostly for sanitation and cleaning supplies.

Director Butler asked to be able to order new vehicles for 2021 now instead of waiting until January because the manufacturers had told him because of Covid 19 if he waited they could not get him the vehicles in a timely manner.

The Board went into a 10 minute executive session.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Sept. 16, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The bulk of the meeting focused on the hybrid learning model, which involves students attending school two days a week and receiving remote instruction the other three days.

During public comment, several parents addressed the board and expressed their frustrations with the hybrid model. Dr. Ryan Knopp, MD, also addressed the board from a public health perspective. Dr. Knopp said we’re still in the middle of a health crisis, he recommended that the district continue with the hybrid model, and he would expect that if the decision were made to return to five days of schooling, that the decision was made based on sound data.

Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, reported to the board that after receiving a number of communications from parents prior to Labor Day, expressing concerns about KSU students in classrooms in light of the higher numbers of positive virus cases in that age group, she and Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, had met with KSU students to go over the district’s handbook and expectations. If KSU students travel out-of-state, they are expected to quarantine on their return. She also said only KSU interns (student teachers) are in classrooms, and other KSU education students are all online.

Eric Reid, Asst. Supt., reported that he’d had a Zoom meeting with the Kansas Dept. of Education (KSDE), and they had discussed accountability and the struggles families were having with the learning logs. KSDE was agreeable to discontinuing the logs and replacing them with a “parent assurance” form, which parents sign to show they will do the best they can to help their students learn.

Erin Meyers-Gambrel, NEA representative, presented the board with results of a survey she had sent to school staff. Results indicated staff didn’t think it would be safe for students or staff to return to 5-day weeks.

Three elementary teachers participated in a sort of panel discussion to share their experiences with hybrid learning. They expressed concerns about seeing kids in person only two days a week, concerns about already having a full plate and being asked to do more, concerns that colleagues might resign over concerns about exposure to the virus, and concerns about special education and other at-risk students. They also noted positives of the hybrid model, such as having smaller classes and getting to really know their students. Keeping para-educators has been an issue, especially since many are older and worried about exposure to the virus. The hybrid model helps reduce the need to be with every student every day at a time when staffing is an issue. Mr. Reid provided the board with an administrator’s perspective on the hybrid model and said he was concerned that if the district returned to a 5-day week too early, the district might lose staff because of it.

Board members shared their thoughts on the hybrid model. Jurdene Coleman asked other board members to think about what their priorities are. She said her priority was to keep teachers because the district has to have staff in order to have school. She also wondered if it were a priority to stop community spread of the virus. Kristin Brighton wondered if there might be a way to improve the quality of hybrid learning and wondered if the days students are at school could change. Currently, one group attends school Monday and Tuesday, Wednesdays no students are at school and schools are cleaned, and a second group of students attend school on Thursday and Friday. Ms. Brighton wondered if it would help to have one group attend on Monday and Thursday, and the second group to attend Tuesday and Friday, instead of having 5 days in a row of remote learning. She said her priority is to find the best solution and mitigate risk. Curt Herrman said his priority is the safety of students and staff and then education. Darell Edie was concerned about families’ stress levels. Brandy Santos asked about students in “Group D.” Dr. Wade explained that Group D students are students of teachers and staff who are allowed to be at school four days a week. He said it’s a way to support staff (who need childcare), and he viewed it as a benefit of the job. Ms. Santos asked when did education become a perk and asked if students at school four days a week are receiving the same education as students who attend two days? It was explained that Group D students work on their remote learning lessons on their own when they’re at school on one of the extra days. Ms. Santos was rather angry at the idea that the district was providing what she viewed as babysitting. Ms. Coleman said it was clear from the beginning that teachers would have the option of having their students in school four days a week, so she didn’t know why Ms. Santos was surprised by it.

Katrina Lewison asked if teacher frustration was about the possibility of infection or the workload. Ms. Meyers-Gambrel said it was both, with teachers in two different groups. She said one group is worried about their own mortality or a family member’s mortality, and another group is worried about the workload. She said there is especially a problem at the middle school level with the workload, where there are no designated remote-only teachers, there have been some resignations, and that results in more work for those who remain. Ms. Lewison asked about special education students, and Ms. Meyers-Gambrel said those students’ cases are are handled on a case by case level. Ms. Lewison asked Dr. Knopp what the endpoint is if we flattened the curve. Dr. Knopp said flattening the curve bought time to develop therapeutics. He said we’re trying to limit death and morbidity, and the virulence is the same as it has been. He thought the district has been doing well and has put the right protocols in place, but if one of the tools in the toolkit gets removed, it could lead to worse outcomes than we’re seeing now. Dr. Knopp said the positivity rate is one metric, but other metrics include the incident rate, staffing capacity, ICU capacity, etc. If the district does things right in schools, that helps the broader community. Ms. Lewison wondered why some districts have been able to have in-person school five days a week. Dr. Knopp said smaller schools might be able to use all the tools in the toolkit consistently better, and transmission rate isn’t as high yet in non-college towns.

The board approved  continuing with the hybrid model until Oct. 22, while continually evaluating the situation. Board members decided to schedule a work session for Sept. 23 to discuss how to improve the hybrid model.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Sept. 2, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

A few parents attended the meeting to address the board in-person and express their frustrations with the remote learning model. Other parents had submitted written comments, which were read aloud.

The NEA-Manhattan Ogden representative said a lot of work goes into planning online lessons and wondered about the sustainability of the hybrid learning model, which is the model where students physically attend school two days a week and have remote learning the other three days. She also commented that childcare for the remote learning days for families and for teachers with young children is a problem. She said that sometimes it’s difficult to do a mind shift when we only know one way of doing things.

Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, provided a report on the re-opening plan. He said glitches were anticipated, and the question is how do we refine the plan with the feedback that’s been provided. He mentioned that the number of positive cases of the COVID-19 virus in Riley County has gone up, but the board would not be deciding during the meeting to make changes, and the district would continue with the hybrid model. District representatives would be meeting with the task force on Thursday and would then make decisions. Dr. Wade said he would provide parents with a week’s notice if there will be a shift.

Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, discussed the logs students complete to document remote learning time. He said the school calendar that was adopted also includes a specific number of hours of instruction, and the district needs to be able to show the number of minutes students are learning and to be accountable. Board member Katrina Lewison commented that as a parent, it’s impossible to do the logs and to keep up, and the district has to find a different way to do it.

During board member comments, Brandy Santos commented that everyone is exhausted. Ms. Lewison read comments from a parent, which said there’s a wide gap between the proposed plan of rigorous study and the reality. Ms. Lewison said parents didn’t sign up for the hybrid model, and they can’t stop working to provide direction to their students. Jurdene Coleman said it’s not realistic to expect everything to be stellar right now, nor realistic to expect the district to have built a sustainable program in three months, and there isn’t time to pause to train teachers.

In addition, Mr. Reid provided preliminary enrollment information. He said enrollment in the middle and high school levels was up, but elementary enrollment was down over 250 students. His guess was families may have looked for options that provided five days per week of in-person schooling or decided to homeschool.

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Riley County Law Board, Monday, August 17, 2020.

Observer: Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, August 17, 2020.

The Fraternal Order of Police representative gave a report.

Tori Lamb received a Letter of Appreciation for assisting with an injury accident.  Amber Fornier received a Certificate of Appreciation for help locating a missing person.

The Board approved spending almost $20,000 from the Edward Burns Memorial Justice Grant for new lights on patrol cars and gun suppression extensions* for firing from a tactical vehicle.

The RCPD received overtime reimbursements for time spent on the Kansas City FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force.

Lieutenant Brad Jager reported that the new firing range should be done in October at a cost of one million dollars.  The appurtenant building should cost about $415 thousand dollars and should be done in March, 2021.

Director Butler said that he was interviewing candidates for a captain’s position and they were to bring a plan to increase diversity in the department to their interview.

After a survey a committee made a new employee relationship policy which covers intimacy within the department, domestic abuse by employees and work complaint channels.

The survey also showed there was disapproval of the current uniforms which have been used for 46 years since consolidation.  A committee has selected new uniforms which are more comfortable, machine washable and cheaper.

*From what I understand it is an extension for the barrel of a rifle so that the end of the barrel will be outside the vehicle.  It makes it safer in that a gun will not go off inside the vehicle.  It makes the gun more accurate and cuts back on kickback.  (GW)
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USD 383 Board of Education, July 24, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

Special meeting:

The Board of Education held a special meeting via Zoom to determine the start date for the 2020-21 school year. Gov. Kelly had issued an executive order to delay schools opening until after Labor Day. The State Board of Education had deadlocked 5-5 in regards to the governor’s order, and the tie meant the State Board of Education failed to accept the order. When to open schools now falls back to individual school districts to determine.

Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, said the original calendar had called for staff to report on Aug. 5 and school to start on Aug. 12. District administration plans to bring a second draft of the re-opening plans to the board on Aug. 5. The recommendation was to start school on Aug. 26, which would provide an additional two weeks for planning and training. Board member Jurdene Coleman asked if that would provide staff with enough time. Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, thought that once a deadline is established, staff will make it happen, and the additional two weeks will allow staff to become more familiar with Canvas (a digital learning platform) and be more ready if there’s a need to go to one of the contingency plans. Ms. Coleman also asked about the readiness of buildings. Matt Davis, Dir. of Maintenance, said building readiness was on track. “Touch point” cleaning in buildings will occur once an hour, and hand sanitizer stations have been added. Ms. Coleman asked if the board will be provided on Aug. 5 with direction as to which re-opening plan to follow, and Dr. Wade said that things can change quickly, so he wasn’t sure. He said administration had felt anxiety about the Aug. 12 start date, then the governor issued the executive order, and he didn’t think the district needed that many additional weeks to be ready. Board member Katrina Lewison asked how the virus played in the decision to delay starting school and not just needing more planning time. Dr. Wade answered that responding to COVID-19 has been the driving force and said delaying the start date was discussed as well as what effect the return of KSU students will have on the community. He said what it comes down to is having plans in place.

Board member Kristin Brighton asked how changing the start date will affect the school calendar. Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, shared that more professional development days have been scheduled for earlier in the school year. The later start date would have resulted in conferences for the secondary level occurring rather early, so secondary conferences will be flexible and can be scheduled over a month-long period. May 14 will be the last day of school and will be a full day. Ms. Brighton also asked about fall activities and the Kansas High School Activities Association (KHSAAA). Mr. Reid said KSHAAA will provide information later, and Dr. Wade said some things will be decided at the local level.  Board member Darell Edie thought the proposed Aug. 26 start date was a great compromise, and he moved to accept Aug. 26 as the start date, May 14 as the last day, and to accept the 2020-21 calendar. The motion was approved 7-0.

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USD 383 Board of Education, July 15, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

Work session:

The board held a work session to discuss plans for re-opening schools.The governor plans to issue an executive order on July 20 that will prohibit re-opening schools until after Labor Day, so district administration will need to see what’s in the executive order before finalizing local plans. Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, explained that families would have their choice of two options for delivery of instruction: on-site learning and remote learning. Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, provided additional details. For on-site learning, students in grades K-6 will have more of a homeroom and will do less moving about the building, For example, music and art teachers will come to the classroom instead of having students move to a different room. Students in grades 7-12 will follow a block schedule. Students who select online learning will have daily contact with an educator. Two contingency plans have also been developed. Contingency Plan A will be implemented if there’s a need to limit the number of students in buildings. Students would be on-site two days a week based on their assigned block and would receive online learning the other days of the week. Contingency Plan B would be implemented if there’s a need for all students to go to distance learning. In terms of school athletics, Dr. Wade said only students enrolled in the on-site learning program will be permitted to participate. Dr. Wade said the next steps will include studying the governor’s executive order, continuing to refine the re-opening plan, continuing to communicate with stakeholders, remaining in contact with the Riley Co. Health Dept., and obtaining feedback from families and staff.

Regular meeting:

The board clerk read a letter submitted by Lee Elementary School staff members expressing concerns about cleanliness issues with the building and problems with the HVAC. The letter claimed the HVAC doesn’t always function properly, causing some classrooms to be 80 degrees or even hotter, and the letter expressed concern about proper air circulation. The letter also claimed there are issues with filthy floors, sinks, and bathrooms as well as mold issues. The board doesn’t usually respond to submitted comments and requested that the problems be discussed at a future meeting.

MHS Principal Michael Dorst reported that the graduation ceremony planned for Aug. 2 for 2020 seniors has been canceled. Instead, seniors can come to a MHS parking lot to pick up a diploma cover and pose for photos.

During board member comments, board president Karla Hagemeister said she would like to revisit the MHS mascot issue and take a fresh look at it. She said it concerns her that a portion of the student population and the community feel excluded. She asked the other board members if they were interested in re-examining the mascot issue. Board members Darell Edie and Curt Herrman were on the board when the issue was last discussed. Mr. Edie said there had been an extensive discussion involving the entire community last time, and he didn’t feel the need to discuss it again. Mr. Herrman said the board had spent two years on the issue last time, and he felt the board had developed a good compromise and he wasn’t interested in approaching the issue again. Brandy Santos said she agreed with Mr. Edie and Mr. Herrman. Jurdene Coleman said what happened before was a step in the right direction, but it was one step in a process with more work to be done. Kristin Brighton and Katrina Lewison expressed similar thoughts and were supportive of discussing the issue again. Since the majority of the board favored re-examining the mascot issue, Dr. Wade was directed to bring a recommendation to the board in the future.

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USD 383 Board of Education, April 1, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board approved the waiver application to the Kansas Dept. of Education for the district’s Continuous Learning Plan for the remainder of the school year. The waiver application requested an exemption from the number of attendance hours for students, provided assurances that hourly employees will be paid based on previously developed plans, and provided information about the district’s Continuous Learning Plan for students.

Lew Faust, Dir. of Business Services, provided information to board members about wage payments during an emergency school closing. Mr. Faust explained the process for determining wages for hourly employees. The past two pay periods were reviewed to create a sample of average hours to determine pay for the rest of the year. Some hourly workers, such as those in food service and IT, are still actively working, so if their hours exceed the average, or if their hours are less than the average, they will be paid whichever is the higher amount. The board approved the wage payment plan.

The board received an update on COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, reported that PreK-6th grade students picked up learning packets as well as their belongings during scheduled times earlier this week. Secondary students will receive blended instruction, which will be a mix of packets and online instruction. Stephanie Smith, Dir. of Child Nutrition, said 2,109 students had been fed that day by picking up meals from distribution sites. The district will begin distributing “meal permits” on April 2, which will note the number of children in a family who are eligible for meals and will allow parents to pick up meals without the children present in an effort to reduce exposure. The district is also considering going to a multiple-day distribution, meaning families would be able to pick up more than one day’s worth of meals to reduce the number of times they need to leave their homes. Matt Davis reported that maintenance is still cleaning and sanitizing buildings, and employee hours have been adjusted to limit exposure.

Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, provided an update on the Continuous Learning Plan. Families of elementary students picked up learning packets, and students in grades 7-12 received technology as needed. Grades for middle school students will be pass/fail, and high school students will continue to receive letter grades. Dr. Ribble provided a technology update and said 374 devices have “checked in” to the district’s system. The district does not yet have the hotspot devices that will aid students with accessibility to the Internet. Andrea Tiede, Dir. of Special Services, reported that case managers have been making recommendations for home instruction for special needs students, and paras are able to provide support through the Zoom application.

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USD 383 Board of Education, March 18, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The board spent the bulk of the meeting discussing the impact of COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) and Gov. Kelly’s order that all schools would be closed for the remainder of the semester. Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, reminded everyone the Riley County Health Dept. (RCHD) had mandated on March 13 the closure of all USD 383’s schools until March 30th, and since then, the governor had closed all schools statewide. In order for staff to be allowed to re-enter buildings, the district will need clearance from the RCHD. The district will develop a continuous learning plan with guidance from the Kansas Dept. of Education. Once the district knows the guidelines, plans will be developed, the board would need to approve the plans, staff would be trained, and the plans would be submitted to the Dept. of Education for approval.

Other aspects of the district’s operations reported on how they were addressing COVID-19.  Matt Davis, Dir. of Maintenance, reported that all attendance centers, buses, and playground equipment had been sprayed with appropriate disinfecting chemicals. Stephanie Smith, Dir. of Child Nutrition, told the board that six schools plus three mobile home parks are serving as feeding sites for children ages 1-18. Three additional feeding sites had just ben approved. The process of distributing meals has gone well, and 1,091 meals were disbursed on March 18. The feeding process will continue through May 13, which would have been the last day of school, and then the district will transition to the summer feeding program.

Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, reported there is a Memorandum of Understanding with KNEA Manhattan-Ogden, and the intention is to be flexible with staff. Michelle Jones, Dir. of Communications and School Safety, said information about COVID-19 has been added to the district’s home page to be a single place to find the latest information. Lew Faust, Dir. of Business Services, told the board that certified/licensed staff will be paid through the end of the school year, 12-month staff will be paid as in the past, and classified staff will be paid based on average hours derived from a two-month sample.

Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, provided the board with information about the development of the continuous learning plan. Principals will be sending surveys to families to determine if they have electronic devices for online learning, and staff will also be surveyed to determine the capacity for delivery of the continuous learning plan. There are three possible delivery methods for learning, including face-to-face learning in groups of 10 or less, virtual learning, and packets for students who don’t have digital access.  Dr. Hough expected to have a plan in about a week and a half. Andrea Tiede, Dir. of Special Services, said the education of special education students will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

In other business, it was reported that construction of the new Oliver Brown Elementary School has been hampered the past few weeks due to rain. With all schools closed, contractors working on the bond projects will be contacted to determine if it might be possible to move up construction schedules.

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Riley County Law Board: March 16,2020

By Greg Wurst, Observer

The Riley County Law Board met as scheduled at noon on Monday, March 16.

The Consent Agenda was approved.
 A proclamation making the week of April 12-18 National Public Safety Communications Week was read.
A letter of thanks from the RCPD to Tori Lamb who helped at the scene of a traffic accident was read.  Numerous awards for Lifesaving, Meritorious Service, Commendations and work on the Chicago Connection were read. The recipients were not present due to contagious virus considerations.
The Community Advisory Board reported that it was writing articles and encouraging new members.
The Special Order Vehicle policy added the new Bearcat and drones to the list of special vehicles.
The Facial Hair Policy was amended to allow professional facial hair and three ear piercings, up from two.
The new firing range is moving along, but still at the architects. Ground has not been broken.
Fake Patty’s Day has been cancelled.  Outside assistance has been cancelled.  Approximately 1/3 of the hotel reservations for that weekend have been cancelled.  RCPD will keep extra officers on duty.  House parties are potentially dangerous because of the close proximity of people.  RCPD is taking action to combat the coronavirus internally.
The first reading of the 20-21 budget was presented.  85% of the budget is personnel.  The cost of insurance will not go up, but RCPD is requesting and increase of 3.7% for cost of living increases and merit raises, $15,000 for an new part time clerk and $40,000 for the underfunding account to cover things whose price has risen.  That totals an increase of 4.04%, or $900,000.
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