Menahga School adapting to COVID outbreak
Menahga School administration recently reflected on the district’s newly developed and implemented COVID-19 outbreak distance learning plan.
At a March 30 special meeting, board chair Andrea Haverinen said, “I have heard from school districts, parents, teachers around the state who have said Menahga is doing a wonderful job, so admin team, teachers, everybody that’s been involved in this, I think you deserve applause.”
Board member Brad Goehrig said he, too, “has heard nothing but positive things. I’ve got a lot of old farts that even they’re saying, ‘Well, that’s quite a deal how you could do that so fast!’”
Elementary Principal Jeannie Mayer replied “Well, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Through blood, sweat and tears by many, many people over the last two weeks, I think what we’ve pulled off is absolutely outstanding, even though we would’ve much rather have had kids in front of us instead of behind any screens.”
The distance learning plan lays out expectations for students, parents and teachers.
Individual Education Programs (IEPs) are the biggest challenge, said Superintendent Kevin Wellen, so special education teachers are talking to parents about how to meet those needs.
Board member Durwin Tomperi asked how physical education and music lessons were being handled.
High School Principal Mark Frank said music teachers have uploaded videos for students to complete, practice and record, along with Zoom meetings to track progress.
Mayer said elementary students fill out a form about work related to music or phy ed. Teachers have posted creative activity ideas, she added.
Wellen noted that all textbooks and musical instruments went home with students on March 16, not only so lockers could be sanitized but also because it was unknown how long the lockdown would last.
“We’re happy we were prepared,” he said.
Mayer added, “The other reason we sent so many supplies is because we didn’t want to assume that kids or families had the resources they needed at home.” Pencils, markers, crayons, dice, rulers and paper went home with elementary students, she said.
The school is only open by appointment. Wellen is asking parents to call ahead.
Staff rotates into the building. “On any given day, we only have half of the staff,” he said.
Every locker, light switch, door knob and surface have been cleaned – some high-traffic areas are sanitized twice daily. The district has plenty of cleaning supplies, Wellen said, adding there is a six-week delay for refills.
Teachers and paraprofessionals are accessing child care for ages 4-12 at the school, along with health professionals. Mayer said between 9 and 14 kids attend child care each day.
Haverinen said Greenwood Connections staff contacted her and were appreciative of the child care system.
Board member Durwin Tomperi asked if anyone was eligible for unemployment benefits.
“We’re not entertaining that,” Wellen said, explaining that the school district doesn’t get unemployment insurance, so a claim would be paid out of pocket, then the district would levy that cost onto taxpayers.
If a staff member cannot work due to an underlying condition, Wellen said sick leave is being used.
Custodial staff is being utilized through assigned projects, such as stripping and waxing the sensory room floor. Wellen said the district is also being flexible with vacations and PTO.
“We’re balancing everybody out because there’s still things to do,” he said, “but if this runs on another four months, we’d run out of work to do.”
Teachers are fulfilling their 40 hours both at home and at school.
“We got handed a heckuva task and I think everybody stepped up across the board,” Wellen said. “Moving forward, the plan is always in flux. We make adjustments.”
Mayer added, “This is unchartered waters for all of us and we’re learning every single day.” She urges parents to call the school with any questions or concerns.
Haverinen asked if there were any on-the-spot or early retirements.
Wellen quipped that his retirement was the only one he considered, but his Social Security benefit would be too low “so I thought better of it.”
The district continues to deliver over 1,000 breakfasts and lunches each on a daily basis. Wellen said, “All of our staff is knocking it out of the park there.”
In other business, the board awarded the summer reroofing bid to Green Valley Roofing for $726,885.
“It’s within our budget,” Wellen said. “This will take care of all of our roofs for about eight years,” except for one small roof by the elementary school.
The approved quote calls for a 60 mil seam-to-seam adhered roof stem.
They also approved the purchase of JV football uniforms from BSNSports of Maple Grove for $9,135. This includes 35 “home” jerseys, 35 “away” jerseys and 35 pants. The lifespan of the uniforms is about six to seven years, said board member Bob White, the former athletic director. The football team will be using existing black helmets with a new logo.