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Esky schools take action on virus plans

ESCANABA — Members of the Escanaba Area Public School District Board of Education took action on a variety of items related to the COVID-19 pandemic during a committee of the whole meeting Monday.

Early in the meeting, Superintendent Coby Fletcher gave board members an update on how things have been going in the district in recent weeks.

“This has been a very interesting — maybe the most interesting start to the school year. A lot of last-minute planning went into this,” he said.

While much has been different this fall due to the pandemic, Fletcher said things have been going smoothly for the most part at Escanaba’s schools since the 2020-21 school year began on Aug. 31.

“My hat really goes off to our staff and our students for doing such a spectacular job,” he said.

However, the district has had to deal with some changes in state requirements.

“Most of the issues that we’re dealing with are coming down to us from Lansing — they’re not issues that we have really within the district,” Fletcher said.

One of these issues is related to the district’s proposed extended COVID-19 learning plan. Fletcher said this plan — the third the district has been required to develop in less than a year — will have to be reviewed and updated every 30 days.

“That requirement really is designed for schools that are operating in Phase Four,” he said.

The new plan will be voted on at the next regular board meeting, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 21. It will then be sent to the Delta-Schoolcraft ISD and the state.force it to hire an “online learning facilitator.”

“We’re approving the creation of that position — we are, right now, evaluating whether or not we’re going to need to fill it. But if we do, we want to be ready,” Fletcher said.

Previously, mentors — who could be anyone employed in a professional capacity in the district — have provided two-way communication with Escanaba students taking online classes. Due to a change in state requirements, only certified teachers may be able to provide this communication going forward.

Fletcher and other board members criticized the change during Monday’s meeting, calling it “awfully silly” and noting mentors in the the district have already been doing a good job of communicating with students. Still, board members ultimately OK’d the position’s creation.

In other COVID-related business, board members:

– authorized a letter of understanding with the Escanaba Education Association. The letter outlines rules, regulations and additional compensation for teachers taking on extra duties related to virtual learning during the current school year.

– heard from Fletcher about the district’s plans to increase custodial services with Accent by $5,000 per week.

-officially approved virtual course options for Escanaba students.

During the meeting, board members also:

– authorized the district’s millage request for the 2020-21 fiscal year. The rate was unchanged from the 2019-20 fiscal year.

– approved the hiring of Director of Operations Scott Peterson and Junior/Senior High School Cook Helper Taylor Cordy.

– entered into an agreement with U.P. International for a temporary onsite mechanic while the district’s mechanic is out.

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