Meeker School Board makes adjustments for COVID-19

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MEEKER | While the number of COVID-19 cases within the Meeker School District (MSD) remains low, and data indicates transmission of the virus in schools is low, quarantine requirements have strained the system. The MSD Board of Education approved a number of new substitute teachers Monday to help fill the gaps when staff are required to quarantine for 14 days.

Meeker High School student parent Justin Blagg addressed the board during public comment with concerns that the school had initially insisted his daughter, in self-quarantine, attend in-person testing for two classes. Blagg said he offered various options, and was frustrated by the response he received.

“I made a tough decision that I felt was in the best interest of my family to self-quarantine my daughter,” Blagg said. “This shouldn’t be an issue.” He added that since his initial interaction, the school had offered a remote option for his daughter. “I don’t need to deal with this stress. I don’t think any parents do. We need to pull it together as a community for real.”

Superintendent Chris Selle told the board the budget outlook is “higher than anticipated” for the 2020-21 school year, but to expect 2021-22 to be difficult. Legislation passed in the November election should benefit rural schools, he said.

Construction of the bus garage is “wrapping up,” and the high school is expected to move into the finished spaces on Dec. 7.
The board approved a bid for a utility vehicle from Rifle Powersports for $26,000.

COVID-19 update:

The switch to hybrid learning (alternating days in-person and online) for students in third-12th grades was decided after the district crossed five of six thresholds set back in July and after a recommendation from public health.

Selle said new data indicates that in-person learning is “safest in terms of physical safety and social/emotional well-being for students.” Evidence indicates students who test positive are being exposed outside of the school environment, and suggested there is value in reconsidering some of the metrics established last summer in order to extend in-person learning.

“Decisions made in July and August were made not knowing what was going to happen when we put kids back in school. What we’ve learned is that kids are pretty safe in school from virus transmission,” Selle said. The district will remain in the hybrid model through Christmas break, regardless.

Finding ways to navigate staff and student absences due to quarantine restrictions, and providing an online option for parents who do not want to send their children back to in-person learning are topics to be worked through.

Dr. Bob Dorsett, board member, said he would like to see options discussed with staff, and warned that the uptick in cases could make a difference going forward.

“The main reason schools have been safe places is the rules have been enforced in the schools,” Dorsett said. “I think there’s more we might consider doing in that regard.”

At the close of the meeting, board members sang “happy birthday” to MHS Principal Amy Chinn and MSD Financial Director Janelle Urista.