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R-II Board Relays Parents’ Angst

By Mark Evans

Ste. Genevieve R-II School District board members and administers addressed parental frustrations and desires to see students back in full-time classes toward the end of the Dec. 15 board meeting.

“I’m very proud of how cautious we’ve been for our students, teachers, staff and our community, through the masks, the blended program, the Plexiglas, additional janitorial staff, a multitude of items we’ve done to mitigate the effects of COVID,” board president David Bova said. “And, I think they’ve been successful. As best I can tell, [there has been] very little transmission inside the buildings.”

Bova reported that parents generally seemed eager to see students back in full-fledged school, but were understanding.

“The parents that have reached out to me are very appreciative of that on both sides of either not going back or going back full-blown,” Bova said. “And though they’re appreciative and want to continue those measures, the parents who reached out to me would like to see us try to go back, maybe in the second semester, if there’s not an uptick in cases after the holidays and we continue the good measures that we’re going right now.”

Dr. Julie Flieg, superintendent, said she had also been getting feedback.

“I am receiving emails from those parents … they’re sharing their concerns; they’re sharing their frustrations,” she said. “I completely understand. I have a senior, so I’m living it just like they are. I understand. We talk about this every two weeks, if not every day.”

Flieg expressed hope that full, live teaching might be feasible second semester. The big concern, though, would be wether Christmas leads to a spike in COVID-19 cases locally.

“I think we do have concern after the holiday,” she said. “We don’t know. We had the same concerns after Thanksgiving.”

A post-Thanksgiving spike, though, never materialized.

“We really didn’t see a lot of cases after Thanksgiving,” Flieg said. “We do have the same concerns after Christmas. We believe more families will get together and spend time together.”

She wants to keep options open, though.

“We can’t say no because we completely understand,” she said.

She noted that the first semester extends into January, rather than ending at Christmas break.

“We’re definitely going to use that time to monitor cases to keep an eye, to continue discussions. We’re not saying it’s never going to happen, but it’s a discussion.”

Middle school assistant principal Kristen Huffman also weighed in.

“We’re having the same conversations with parents, as well,” she said. “We’re listening and trying to figure out what’s the next best step. And we’re watching all the numbers … It’s not just the county numbers to watch … but we’re listening to people and hearing … It’s just figuring out when’s the right time to shift.”

Bova  thanked the board and administration for continuing to weigh options. “I know it’s a very difficult decision,” he said, adding that he felt obliged to pass along the feedback.

Flieg stressed that the administration is always accessible to parents and other citizens.

“If they want to share suggestion, concerns, let us know,” she said. “We’re here to listen.”

Bova said he had directed concerned parents to the district office and to building principals, where they got “good responses.” He thanked them for that.

“The parents that have reached out, everything I have seen,” high school assistant principal John Boyd Jr. said, “they’re frustrated and want to get back in the building, but they’ve taken a positive spin and they’ve had that positive connotation with it. I don’t feel  like there’s been any hostility toward anybody in regards to the situations we’ve been in.”

He said feedback of parents and teachers have been sought as the district looks to try and “transition back” to normal classes. Trying to determine class sizes and other safety issues are among the things that have to be considered, he said.

“We’re trying to figure out what’s best for our students, for their social and emotional well-being, their academic, but also their health. We’re trying to balance all those,” Boyd said.

Bova thanked teachers for their work and their input into the situation

“I know they have a mixed bag of concerns, for themselves, for their students,” he said, “and sometimes those are at odds. They’re really having an internal battle. I really appreciate what they’re doing very much. Thank you.”

Board member Eric Basler asked about the elementary schools.

“We’ve been going five days a week since the beginning, with a blended and personal option, Nanya Gegg, Ste. Genevieve Elementry principal said. “For second semester we’ve eliminated the blended option, so we will offer either five days a week or virtual.”

She said they are down to about 40 students doing virtual learning.

Lori Zouspann, meanwhile said Bloomsdale Elementary is down to about 13 virtual students.

Board member Martha Resinger expressed appreciation for the faculty and staff.

“I’ve heard a lot of compliments,” she said. “Some of  the negative was pretty much a couple of months ago.”