R-II Board Reviews Calendar, COVID Communications; Extends Leave

By MARK EVANS

[email protected]

Meeting for the first time in 2021, the Ste. Genevieve R-II School Board reviewed the proposed 2021-22 calendar, passed a resolution dealing with employee sick days for COVID-19 and heard a presentation on the district’s communication with the public during the pandemic on Jan. 19.

Superintendent Dr. Julie Flieg and board members also expressed enthusiasm at the district’s upcoming move to four days a week of live school.

CALENDAR BASICALLY SAME AS THIS YEAR

Flieg said the proposed 2021-22 calendar is “basically a copy” of this year’s” She also called it “a mirror image” of the year’s calendar.

In it, the last day of school in 2022 would be May 20, with graduation on May 21. The 2021 Missouri High School State Activities Association “dead period,” with no contact between teachers or coaches and students, will be July 31-Aug. 8.

Also, while school will be closed for Veteran’s Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, Flieg anticipates school being back in session the next day.

RESOLUTION EXTENDS EMPLOYEE LEAVE ACTS

The board passed a resolution, extending Emergency Paid Sick Leave benefits from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to include the period Jan. 1 through March 21, 2021. It had expired on Dec. 31.

However, it does not add additional sick days. A total of 80 hours, or 10 days, may be used. This does not include substitute employees.

OTTO REPORTS ON COMMUNICATIONS

The half-hour meeting did not include principals’ reports, since school had only been back in session two weeks. It did, however, include about a 19-minute presentation by district communications director Bailey Otto.

She focused primarily on how she and the district had tried to get word out to patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being transparent, systematic, comprehensive and engaging and keeping “stakeholders” informed of the district’s decisions were of paramount importance, she said. Stakeholders included R-II families, faculty and staff, neighbors, media, partners, community members and residents, and local businesses.

Various mediums used included voice mail and text messages by phone, emails to employees and children’s families, live website feeds, app push notifications and social media on the internet and getting news releases to media outlets.

She reviewed the COVID-19 time line, with school closing live classes on arch 18 – originally just through April 3. On March 30, that was extended to April 30. Then, on April 9, Gov. Mike Parson closed schools for the remainder of the school year. On July 10 a reopening survey was taken, the Staff Reopening Committee convened on July 20 and four days later, families began choosing instructions options (live, virtual or blended). The opening plan was announced Aug. 7 and school opened Aug. 24.

Another survey took place in October, a district COVID-19 dashboard was shared in December and a transition plan was shared Jan. 15 The district’s 4-and-1 model of four days a week of live learning was set to begin Jan. 25.

Otto said that transparency and attempting to stay ahead of the situation were critical.

“We tried to do this from the outset,” she said. ‘“Proactive meaning we tried to answer your questions before you could ask them.”

She said information went out to board members, faculty and staff first.

“That helps build trust, but it also helps them in heir role as ambassadors for the district. If they understand the rationale behind the decisions, and they get the questions, they can answer them.”

On Facebook, the district page had 1,038,354 impressions and 99,677 engagements (such as comments or shares). Twitter numbers were 87,094, while Instagram followers were already up to 871 people, in less than a full year. The district’s Youtube channel, meanwhile, had 1,942 views since March.

Middle school principal Dr. Scott Mercer praised Otto for doing “an outstanding job” on behalf of the school district. Board member James Kirchner added that he had heard very positive things. The board applauded Otto.

• Board member Martha Resinger agreed, and added that “They are truly our heroes, all of you,” including teachers and staff, who soldiered through the trying year.