The USD 386 Madison-Virgil Board of Education met for its regularly scheduled school board meeting Monday evening to provide a COVID-19 testing plan and update, retired iPad authorization and elect new school board officers.
“We will start start with the update because it was a rather large update,” said Superintendent Stu Moeckel.
Over winter break, Moeckel explained that Eureka School Board approached the Greenwood County Commission to review how to handle quarantining schools at a county level. Eureka BOE did not adopt Wilson County’s school quarantine plan, but used wording to request what they would like to see in Greenwood County schools.
“If there is a close contact in a classroom and that close contact and a positive case are both wearing an approved mask correctly for the entire duration of that close contact,” Moeckel read. “The exposed individual may be exempt from quarantining.”
A close contact is defined to be two individuals closer than six feet for more than 10 minutes.
“With that said,” Moeckel continued. “Each situation will continue to be evaluated on a case by case basis by the school district and the health department. Positive cases are quarantined.”
The purpose of the new quarantine policy is to keep students in the classroom rather than quarantining an entire class for one positive case, if students are wearing approved masks correctly the entire time.
“This is saying you do not have to quarantine the whole class as long as they are wearing their masks appropriately, covering their nostrils and mouths,” he said. “Approved masks are the double cloth, surgical masks, N95s and KN95s.”
A positive staff member came to the school district, but because of the new quarantine guidelines, only the staff member had to quarantine because other contacts wore masks correctly. Moeckel explained that some districts have had to quarantine students four to five times.
“By the fourth time, it is really hard to get that kid motivated to be in school,” he said. “This is there to help correct the rules of quarantine.”
However, the policy will affect activities differently.
“Before Christmas, we had both basketball teams out because of an exposure on court,” Moeckel said. “[The policy] will not do that, but it will keep our kids in the classroom. As tough as it is to see our kids lose games, I would rather have them in the classroom.”
The next and crucial step is to clarify with parents of the new policy, but Moeckel anticipates to see less students having to quarantine.
In addition to the new policy, Moeckel presented a rapid antigen testing called Abbott BinaxNOW.
The test provides results in 15 minutes with a 90% accuracy for symptomatic cases. The test is not a “brain tickler” but a nasal swab inside each nostril for five seconds.
“A red line on top [of results] means you did the test right,” he explained. “If you get two lines, that means you have a positive case. If it just has one line that means it is negative.”
However, the testing is a hit or a miss. Moeckel said that the Abbott BinaxNOW may miss COVID if the person being tested does not have enough symptoms present for the test to detect the disease.
Symptoms include fever, chills, rigor, headache, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of smell or taste, congestion, runny nose, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea without an alternate or more likely diagnosis.
“We would have a consent to test COVID waiver signed by parents,” Moeckel read from the waiver. “What they are doing is authorizing the COVID testing to happen at school. They are authorizing the test results of their child under the age of 18 to be disclosed to the county, state, or any other governmental entity that may be required by law. I understand that the medical test has potential for false positives or false negatives, and I give permission to the Greenwood County Health Department and my school to contact me.”
If students feel sick, they can take the rapid test at school with the waiver. If the student tests negative but still feels ill, then the student can go home to monitor symptoms and come back to school the next day if the student feels better.
He clarified that the consent form is not required by parents, but the option is available to give parents a peace of mind.
“I just know that you mentioned there could be false positives or false negatives and the test is not conclusive,” said board member Gary Kile. “If the student is exhibiting symptoms, they should be on their way home anyways. I am really not in favor of this because of that.”
Board member Jannette Luthi made a motion to provide COVID-19 rapid tests available to students and staff on a trial basis for 60 days. The board plans to revisit in the March meeting to determine if the testing option is meeting the needs of staff, students and parents. Motion carried 4-2.
Moeckel moved on to discuss selling retired iPads.
“We believe we have 50 to 60 iPads that are, I would say, at least two generations back,” he said. “What that means is they will not add onto the new operating system. What they are good for [are] for students. You can still get YouTube on them for now, you can still get on the Internet for now, but every year you keep going away from that they lose their functionality.”
To help families who need technology, Moeckel suggested to sell the iPads as is, with no charger, first come first serve for $50. The chargers still function, so they have value to give to students if a charger breaks, lost or stolen.
The board plans to keep 40 iPads in case of an emergency, like if board members do not have access to attend Zoom meetings then they can borrow the iPads.
Board members Dallas Luthi and Todd Pyle made a motion to approve selling the retired iPads, 6-0.
In other business, the board:
Nominated Jeff Williams for Board President and Dallas Luthi for Board Vice President for the 2020-2021 school year. Both motions carried 5-0.
Gary Kile and Jannette Luthi were appointed as Board Representatives for the Negotiations Committee, 6-0.
Natalie Boone was hired as the 10th grade sponsor, 6-0.
Dyllan Haworth was hired as the High School Boys C Team Basketball Coach, 6-0.