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Westby School Board approves start of school plan; face-to-face instruction will be 5 days a week

Westby School Board approves start of school plan; face-to-face instruction will be 5 days a week

The Westby School Board approved the 2020-21 start of school plan at a special meeting, Monday night.

District Administrator Steve Michaels said school will be held five days a week for face-to-face instruction, with a daily 45-minute early release. He said the early release will allow teachers to prepare for online instruction and the custodians to clean. He said 80 percent of parents who were surveyed this month indicated they were in favor of face-to-face instruction.

The second part of the plan is a virtual option offered by the school district. Michaels said 20 percent of the families who responded to the survey indicated they were leaning in that direction.

The third part of the plan is that families can enroll their children in the Rural Virtual Academy or another online program outside of the district, or homeschool. Michaels said less than 1 percent of the families fall into this group.

A PowerPoint presentation detailing more information about the 2020-21 start of school plan will be available on the district’s website later this week and a video will be available next week.

Board members approved moving the 2020-21 calendar’s Fair Day, a no-school day scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18, to Dec. 23, lengthening the winter break. The calendar change is for this school year only and was made because the Vernon County Fair has been canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The School Board voted to not do anything with the bleacher project at the athletic complex in the coming two years in light of the current economic environment. Michaels said the project was tabled at the board’s regular meeting held on July 13 because the initial quote to pour a concrete pad to drain it properly and address runoff was high. The board asked for another quote, Michaels said, which came in at $120,000; $40,000 less than the initial quote.

The Norsemen Booster Club purchased gently used stadium seating from Prairie du Sac High School. The bleachers are now in the athletic complex’s parking lot.

During the discussion portion of the special meeting, board members discussed moving forward with the referenda in November.

There will be two questions if the board moves forward. An operational referendum (this is to maintain people and programs) as well as a capital referendum (this is for large ticket building needs).

Michaels said planning for the referendum began two years ago when the district recognized the retirement of debt would be coming up and there were projects that needed to be done, with a minimal impact on taxes. Listening sessions were held and a community survey was taken.

“Things were going great, and COVID happened,” Michaels said. He said the district “seriously considered” not having the referendum this November.

It was decided, Michaels said, to come back with a smaller scope. Initially the cost was $19 million and it has been trimmed to $12 million. Work would include roofs, mitigation of runoff issues, HVAC, plumbing and electrical work, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) enhancements.

Modernizing of instructional spaces for such things as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering) throughout the schools, Michaels said, has been “pushed off from this ask.”

“We realize it’s an awful time to ask the public for money,” he said. “We hope the public sees this as a way to keep buildings functioning another 20 years and keep staff and programs in place.”

Michaels said there will be a special school board meeting in August to approve sending the referendum questions to attorneys to prepare the documents and submit them by Aug. 25 in order for the questions to be on the November ballot.

The School Board presented four Community Volunteer Service Awards at Monday’s special meeting. All of the recipients were nominated by Michaels – three nominees were recognized for their help during the pandemic and one nominee was recognized for helping cover lunch accounts.

The first award recognized Vernon Communications, Rod Olson and Jana Pedretti. According to Michaels’ nomination, “During the pandemic one of the first calls I received was from Jana at Vernon Communications. They realized that we had a population of families without internet access and the offered to install it and connect them at no cost. Because of their thoughtfulness and servant mindset, they played a major role in removing that barrier for learning. We remain grateful for their partnership.”

The second award recognized Coon Valley Lutheran Church and Pastor Julie Wollman. According to the nomination, “On Thursday, July 9, 2020, I received an email from Pastor Julie Wollman. In it she indicated that Coon Valley Lutheran Church’s Congregation Endowment Committee wanted to make a distribution of $1,600 to cover lunch accounts for students who were unable to pay them. Additionally, at the start of the pandemic, Coon Valley Lutheran Church reached out to see how they could help. They collected weekend care packages for families and distributed them in Coon Valley. We are grateful for their service to families in our District.”

The third award recognized Westby Coon Prairie Lutheran Church, Donna and Roger Harris and Lindsay Tuszynski. According to the nomination, “After Spring Break, we knew that there were unmet needs for feeding families over the weekends. Donna reached out asking if we could identify families who would want help with healthy meals over the weekend. Since April, every Friday (now Thursday) a group of our principals assembles to deliver weekend care packages to families throughout our District. We could not do this without the help, organization, and generosity of Donna, Roger, Lindsay, and others from the Coon Prairie Lutheran Church. Thank you for your service to the families in our District!”

The fourth award recognized Our Saviors Lutheran Church, Pastor John Dumke, Keith Olson and Dave Gluch. The nomination states, “During the initial closure due to the pandemic, Pastor John reached out to me and asked what the church might do to help out. I mentioned that we could use help with weekend meals as well as meals over spring break. Without hesitation, he called congregation members together and we were able to serve some of our families who needed it the most. They service families in Westby and Chaseburg. We are grateful for their service to the families in our District.”

Angie Cina can be reached at angie.cina@lee.net.

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Vernon County Broadcaster editor

Angie Cina is editor of the Vernon County Broadcaster. Contact her at 608-637-5616.

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