The Haxtun-Fleming Herald - What can we reason but from what we know? -Alexander Pope

By Candie Fix
Managing Editor 

Frenchman BOE approves administration's back-to-school plan; school set to start Aug. 18


August 12, 2020

Parents and staff members filed into the Fleming school/community library on Thursday evening, Aug. 6 to hear back-to-school plans from the Frenchman School Board. With school set to begin in just a week, many were filled with anticipation on what the school day would look like upon students’ return for the first time since the global COVID-19 pandemic that hit earlier this year.

The Board began business with roll call, pledge of allegiance, prayer and approval of the agenda and following those house-keeping items, members jumped straight to the action item pertaining to the District’s plan to return to in-person learning. Many parents and staff members said they weren’t necessarily present to speak, but rather to hear the plan and discussion among the Board in regards to returning back to school for the first time since March.

President Randy Kirkwood said that for a moment, he wanted to take off his school board hat and speak as a parent, maybe both. Kirkwood acknowledged work by Superintendent Steve McCracken and Principal Kortney Firme throughout the summer and even more recently in developing a plan to return to in-person learning despite daily changes and many regulations and mandates.

“Our goal is to make it the best we can, because the alternative is on-line learning,” he said. “I support our administration and teachers. I don’t envy the teachers, I respect you a whole lot. Let’s make the best of a not so good situation and support each other.”

Kirkwood told staff present that the District’s goal is to get them back to doing what they love, and that is teaching students in the classroom.

Superintendent McCracken presented the plan, which he said was drafted with heavy guidance from the Colorado Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control and the Northeast Colorado Health Department. The document, he said, is fluid and he has hopes of delegating a task force of administration, staff and parents to continually look at the document and changes from the State to make sure it is up-to-date and the least restrictive as possible.

“I want to do all we can to stay in the building for as long as we can,” McCracken said.

The District plan keeps students in daily cohort groups, mostly by grade level, and states that students 11 and older, as well as staff, wear masks as mandated by Governor Polis. The plan also calls for social distancing as set by State guidelines.

McCracken acknowledged that mask wearing is not ideal for everyone, but said he encourages mask breaks when possible and outside classroom time if applicable. He also said the District plans to install three-sided plexiglass to student’s desks, which will give students and staff the ability to take masks down or off during classroom time.

McCracken also said the District plans to provide each student with a lanyard for them to attached their own masks to. This, he said, will help students keep track of their masks as well as allow them to easily wear or take them off when needed.

Additionally, all students will be required to wear masks on the bus and until they are at school and to their rooms. Bus drivers will also be required to wear masks and monitor social distancing on bus routes limited students to every other seat while only allowing family members to sit together. McCracken and board members all agreed on the importance of keeping bus routes and transportation to school and if need be, plan to run several trips each morning to get students to the building.

Students will be allowed to eat both breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria with social distancing by cohorts. At this time, however, Fleming Schools will keep the campus closed and not allow high school students to leave for lunch. Additionally, the campus will be closed to all parents and visitors.

Parents, board members and administration also talked about protocol for if a student is sick and presents symptoms of COVID-19. McCracken said parents will be mailed a check list to run through symptoms that should be monitored daily before students arrive to school. If a student presents symptoms at school, they will be isolated and administration will proceed with assistance from the local health department.

As for monitoring students wearing masks and trying to follow the directive of the governor, McCracken said students will be required and asked to wear a mask and if there is any pushback, the student is welcome to utilize the District’s new online learning system, Edmentum.

“Trust me, I don’t like it any more than you do,” McCracken told parents and staff members at the meeting.

Following some discussion on specific questions from parents and staff, the Board went onto approve the back-to-school plan as is with the expectations that some situations will need assistance from the local health department and that the document is fluid and will change as mandates and regulations from the State change, which is daily.

“We’re going to do the best we can with the situation we are in,” McCracken said.

Moving onto reports, McCracken said staff members were set to return to school on Monday, Aug. 10 with an original school start day of Aug. 13. However, with the addition of a new online teaching tool, Edmentum, and other training needed before school starts, the Superintendent asked the Board to postpone the start of school by five days, two actual school days.

McCracken said he would like to give staff members the entire week of the 10th to get their classrooms ready with social distance guidelines, allow them time to adjust to all the changes this year and give more time for training on the new online learning system should it need to be used for individual students or as a class as a whole should there be an outbreak.

After some discussion, the Board voted to honor McCracken’s request to push school by two student days. Instead of beginning on Aug. 13, Fleming students will return to school on Tuesday, Aug. 18.

In other business, the Board:

• Accepted the resignation of Shauna Close as music teacher and hired Laurianna May to fill the open position;

• Approved a new copy machine lease;

• Approved an intergovernmental agreement with Logan County to conduct the November election;

• Approved the 2020-21 class schedule;

• Accepted a bid from Michelle Asfeld to remove the pond equipment.


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