Masks “highly recommended” for start of school
The Hamilton School District will start the 2021-22 school year strongly recommending that students and staff wear masks, but the School Board stopped short of making it mandatory at its Aug. 16 meeting. Attending the meeting with interest in the decision were about 100 people. Speaking out on the issue were about 30 individuals — mostly district parents — with the majority speaking against a mask mandate. Later in the meeting, Superintendent Paul Mielke, Ph.D., said that among parents who sent emails to the district, most favored making masks mandatory for grades 4K-6. Mielke also said the district’s medical advisor recommended a mandate for 4K – grade 6.
The district reserved the right to reassess a mask mandate if the positive 7-day average in the district rises above 9.5 cases for three consecutive days – a level last experienced in January. The positive 7-day average in August was 5.73. Should positive cases rise in the district, recommendation for the wearing of masks could vary based on grade level.
Other components of the plan for 2021-22 include:
- following federal regulations that mandate mask use on buses;
- asking students and staff to self-monitor for symptoms, stay home if they are sick and not return until they are symptom-free for 24 hours or secure a negative COVID test;
- continuing multiple mitigation efforts such as increased air exchange and filtration, frequent hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning and disinfection protocols, signage and communication;
- offering emergency remote learning for student who are in isolation or quarantined due to COVID;
- notifying families and staff if they have had school-based exposure to a COVID-positive person. Students and staff who do not have COVID symptoms will not need to quarantine, but must self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure;
- using school attendance, school disease and community and regional data to make responsive step decisions;
- implementing best practices in food service such as no-touch student ID barcode at point of sale, no shared utensil food stations, individually wrapped condiments, staggered cafeteria arrival time and spacing out of tables;
- allowing visitors in school with expectations that they self-screen for symptoms;
- monitoring to ensure that students are not harassed for wearing or not wearing a mask; and
- resuming student activities in person and following Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association guidelines for high school sports.
Citizens approve tax levy at Annual Meeting
Dozens of citizens approved the Hamilton School District tax levy at the Annual Meeting held before the School Board’s regular Aug. 16 meeting. The tax levy, the portion of the budget paid through local property taxes, totalled $27.9 million, down from $29.3 from the year before. The total budget was $65.9 million, approximately $235,000 less than 2020-21 when the district used a portion of its fund balance to cover additional expenses operating during a pandemic.
In addition to the levy approval, citizens increased School Board member salaries from $4,850 to $5,335 and approved lease agreements of district owned land for farming purposes.
Coaching roles to evolve in 2022-23
Instructional Services Supervisor Cathy Drago updated the School Board on the future role of instructional coaches through realignment of positions and programs. Beginning in the 2022-23 school year, positions and programs will be realigned as follows:
- Reading specialists will further prioritize the instructional coaching component of their role
- Elementary math support teachers will transition to K-4 math and science instructional coaches
- Two grade 5-12 math and science coaching positions will be created.
- Library-media and elementary technology integrators will transition to two-person teams with one team each at the preK-grade 4, grades 5-8 and grades 9-12 levels.
Four elementary paraprofessionals, each a 72% position, were approved to help deal with increased student enrollment. Lannon, Maple Avenue and Marcy will each gain a regular paraprofessional and Lannon will also get a special education position.
Due to increased student reading instruction needs, a half-time communication arts teacher will be added at Hamilton High. Currently a staff member teaches both reading and communication arts. By adding the communication arts position, the current teacher will continue in the reading specialist role and will have more time for instructional coaching.
In other personnel matters, the School Board
- approved the payroll specialist position description to better reflect the actual role;
- accepted the resignations of Templeton Associate Kitchen Employee Barbara Bourke, Hamilton High Paraprofessional Lori Meleski, Lannon Kindergarten Teacher Danielle Danz, Woodside Grade 2 Teacher Rebecca McGinley, Woodside Math Support Teacher Susan Schramka, Associate Kitchen Employee Julie Rossi and Hamilton High Special Education Teacher Theresa Craig;
- appointed Karl Heger as Woodside fitness education teacher, Frances Weiss as Templeton grade 8 teacher Pooja Ahuja as Willow Spring paraprofessional, Abigail Bralick as Marcy paraprofessional,Kimberly Benedict as Woodside replacement library-media specialist, Deanna Budney as Hamilton High social studies teacher, Benjamin Holtzen as Marcy grade 1 teacher, Laura Pape as Maple Avenue paraprofessional, Mary Manning as Hamilton High paraprofessional; Susan Schramka as Silver Spring associate principal; Taylor Schmidt as replacement choral teacher, Monica Spanton as Silver Spring custodian, Ann Johnson as Willow Springs custodian, Tonia Schiller as Marcy associate kitchen employee, Shelly Brown as Lannon replacement kindergarten teacher, Addison Moylan Woodside grade 2 replacement teacher, Julie Odefey as Maple Avenue literacy interventionist, Cristina McCaffery as Templeton administrative assistant and Alan Farrugia as Woodside elementary instructional coach; and
- modified the contracts of Lannon Fitness Education Teacher Molly Wirnsberger from 100% to 80%, and Maple Avenue Art Teacher Christine Woywod Veettil from 50% to 86%.