(TNS) – La Monroe County Community School Corp. has taken steps to get more COVID-19 negative students back to classrooms faster after being walked out with symptoms.
The district has also approved upgrades to modernize its transportation-related technology, although the upgrades may not go into effect immediately.
At a special MCCSC board meeting on Tuesday, the adjustment of COVID-19 procedures and the bus technology contract were approved. The council also carried out a first reading of a by-law on public participation in council meetings and approved modifications to this project.
The MCCSC now accepts rapid antigen testing as a route back to school for a student who called absent from school or who was sent home after an on-site school and / or school-sponsored extracurricular activities related to illness with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Board member Erin Cooperman said this was based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indiana Department of Health and the American Academy for Pediatrics. The change was unanimously approved by the board members present, which did not include Jacinda Townsend Gides.
The change was made in cooperation with pediatricians who serve most of the MCCSC students, Cooperman said. These pediatricians have already started offering the rapid antigen test for symptomatic students on days zero to five, she said.
“Access to PCR testing in our community has become a huge issue,” Cooperman said. “So this is not the only solution, but it is a piece of the puzzle to start over, to slow down transmission in our schools while allowing negative students to return to school earlier.”
Brandon Shurr, board member, asked about access to rapid antigenic testing within the school for students. MCCSC Superintendent Jeff Hauswald said the district currently lacks the capacity to do so and is short of nurses. He said this would be discussed at the MCCSC COVID-19 Monitoring and Advisory Committee meeting on Wednesday. These meetings are not open to the public.
The updated guidelines are that before a student can return to school or to school-related activities and events, one of the following must occur:
– The student completes a 10-day isolation period at home, OR
– The student is seen by a medical provider and has a return to school declaration, OR
– Student shows evidence of a current negative rapid antigen COVID test or COVID PCR test. Rapid antigen tests must be performed by a healthcare professional to be accepted; home test results are not accepted.
Documents were included in the agenda to further support and explain the change. To find them, go to the MCCSC website, click on the Board tab and navigate to the special meeting agenda.
For close contacts, the MCCSC follows a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated students and staff who are asymptomatic close contacts. They can return to school on day 11 with enhanced precautions until day 14, but students cannot resume sports and extracurricular activities until day 15. More information can be found on the MCCSC website. .
Council members in attendance approved a five-year contract with Tyler Technologies, the district’s existing transportation software provider. Council members Cooperman and Townsend Gides were not present for this vote.
Tim Pritchett, chief technology officer of MCCSC, said the contract is for the purchase of several Versatrans software modules. This includes on-board GPS, iPad software that bus personnel can use for real-time routing, improved reporting and diagnostic tools, updated attendance monitoring software and parent communication tools.
“There are significant delays in delivering some of this,” Hauswald said. “So that doesn’t mean that the technologies by which we bring students to and from school will change next week. We’ll start implementing these things on a phased rollout in the spring, so parents are going to have to continue to be patient with us. “
Pritchett said that currently the district has one of eight tools available through Versatrans. This means that the district does not have the ability to know what time a bus actually stops compared to the scheduled time without asking the bus driver, he said.
Here Comes the Bus, the app currently used and supposed to track buses in real time, will be replaced. Here Comes the Bus is not from Versatrans, and it does not interface well with systems from Versatrans. For now, the district has opened support tickets with Here Comes the Bus to address current issues, Pritchett said.
“What this is meant to do is correct these loopholes and holes,” Pritchett said. “Currently, today we really want to dig and know the efficiency of our routes, our driving time, and due to the number of gaps and the lack of tools that we have to do it, we cannot do without drawing. on paper.
This contract moves everything in the same suite, which means it can work together.
Pritchett said that right now when bus drivers stop at a stop, they pull out a stack of paper with a list of the children’s names on it and the route stops.
“So if you think of the Apple maps on your iPhone versus the Rand McNally TripTik we had 15 years ago with a CD-ROM you print, we’re on Rand McNally TripTik with the CD-ROM,” said Pritchett. “And I’m not saying that jokingly. We are printed paper, and if this route changes or there is a construction delay, these are notes scribbled on the paper.
Modernization of the transportation system was badly needed and long overdue, Pritchett said.
The total cost over five years is $ 875,700.58 and will be paid for using federal grants from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. The ESSER fund was created as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the CARES law. The MCCSC has received more than $ 25 million in total across the three ESSER funding rounds, according to the Indiana Department of Education.
In public comments at the start of the meeting, Ashlie Moore asked how the contract would solve the transportation problem. She asked if the money would be better spent on giving driver raises or hiring bonuses.
“I think there is this concern that even though we have the technology, if we don’t have the drivers, it doesn’t matter how good the technology is because we don’t have the people to drive the buses.” , Board of Directors said MP April Hennessey.
Hauswald said it was difficult to increase the salaries of existing staff with one-time funding, as it would create a tax cliff in the future. Collections should come from certain funds in the district’s regular budget rather than a one-time grant.
Hauswald said the district strives to spend funds wisely and that reliable and efficient transport services are a clear priority.
A policy was at first reading on public participation in board meetings.
At the last regular meeting of the Board of Directors, some speakers did not stop speaking after the expiration of the three minutes allotted to them. One speaker refused to wear a mask, which caused the council to take a break and this person was escorted out of the meeting.
Elizabeth Ruh, a board member, proposed five changes to the policy that already indicated proposed changes, which were discussed at length.
Ultimately, some of the key parts of the project and the approved adjustments were as follows:
– Participants should register their intention to participate in the public portion of the meeting by formal written request on the company’s website via a “Public Comments” tab. Participants should include the agenda item they are talking about and a summary of comments. Participants can always provide a completed comment card to the Assistant Superintendent before the in-person meeting begins.
– If a speaker continues to comment to the audience after being ordered to stop after three minutes, a 15-minute break will be requested to allow the speaker to be removed from the room. If a second break is required during public comments, public comments will be suspended for the remainder of the meeting.
– No participant may speak more than once during public comments.
– When the lack of public decorum interferes with the smooth running of the session, the chairperson requests a suspension or an adjournment at another time.
– Comments on anything – not just agenda items – can be emailed to [email protected] for independent board review. No specific response will be provided.
After 50 minutes of conversation, the board members approved the drafted policy change. Townsend Gides was not present for the vote and Martha Street abstained.
“I think you’ve actually given more entry clearances to the public,” Hauswald said. “The only thing you have, in my opinion, consolidated more firmly is if someone doesn’t follow the rules you are reducing and they have to leave. This is my summary of that conversation.
Board members may propose other changes before the policy is approved at the next regular board meeting.
During the public comment time at the special reunion, Moore said she and other parents were concerned about limiting public comment.
Michele Bucklin said being a school board member means representing parents. She said she would like the chance to comment on things that were not on the agenda and said people who broke the rules in previous meetings do not represent her.
“Remember you speak for all of us and you can’t speak for us unless you hear our voices,” Bucklin said.
Paul Farmer, president of the Monroe County Education Association, said the democratic process can be ugly, but voices need to be heard. He said he was not punishing an entire class for a student’s behavior and said Bloomington is a place that prides itself on allowing people to voice their concerns. Not allowing the community to voice their opinions is not a good thing, he said.
The next regular board meeting is scheduled for September 28 at 6 p.m. at the Co-Lab, 553 E. Miller Drive.
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