Decatur School Board discusses COVID-19 mitigation strategies for upcoming school yearDecatur High School student Sean Wiseman, 18, sits out his 15 -minute post injection observation period with his mother Christine Wiseman after receiving his first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday March 25, 2021 at DeKalb Pediatric Center. Sean said the injection felt like “just a pinch” and he’s looking forward to spring break. Photo by Dean Hesse.
Decatur, GA — City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Maggie Fehrman at the School Board’s June 8 meeting gave an overview of the COVID-19 mitigation strategies for the upcoming school year.
Fehrman outlined the COVID-19 mitigation strategies at the May 11 School Board meeting and previously said the district strives to follow suit with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CSD plans to continue monitoring CDC guidance over the summer.
The district is committed to providing five, full instructional days each week during the next school year.
As mask guidance from the CDC has changed recently, City Schools of Decatur is committed to doing everything the district can to make sure that all staff and students wear masks in the schools at least for the first semester as the district cannot guarantee that everyone has been vaccinated.
“This is another area that we are very fully committed to using this mitigation method as one of our main methods of mitigation when students are in the building for school,” Fehrman said.
Students who are not feeling well should stay home from school. The district has received feedback from parents and staff regarding CSD’s quarantine plan. Fehrman will present the final plan for quarantine learning options in July.
A high priority for the schools this year will be to utilize outdoor classroom spaces, especially during lunch.
“I think each school is working on their plans and how they are going to create some outdoor space that will be shaded, so students can be outside,” Fehrman said.
The district will continue to do viral testing next year. They will be able to test students who show symptoms as well as anyone who was in close contact with a symptomatic person.
City Schools of Decatur will continue to monitor guidance from the CDC over the summer and update mitigation strategies as needed.
“We understand that the state can make some recommendations, but we are going to rely on the scientists that know the disease and know how to prevent the disease, specifically because our youngest students will not have had the opportunity, most likely, to be vaccinated,” Fehrman said. “That’s why masks are going to be so important, particularly for our younger students.”
Other strategies include regular handwashing and social distancing, frequent cleaning of school buildings and buses, and cohorting students.
— In other business, Fehrman gave an update on the district budget. The School Board adopted the tentative millage rate of 21 mills in May. This is an increase of 0.75 mills as the current millage rate is 20.25 mills.
The board will hold three public hearings about the millage rate before approval. The meetings will be held on Thursday, June 10, at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and the final hearing will be on Tuesday, June 22, at 6 p.m. Following the final public hearing, the board will vote on the millage rate during a special called meeting at 6:15 p.m. All of these meetings will be held via Zoom and more information can be found on the district’s event calendar.
“We do anticipate based on our tax digest that we received that after we’ve approved the millage it will be very likely that we can amend our budget to also increase the cost of living for all CSD staff,” Fehrman said. “We will raise [the millage rate], however, I do feel that raising will still provide us the opportunity to do the 1% COLA for our staff.”
— During the superintendent’s comment, Fehrman also gave an update on staffing and said she is not going to fill her previous position of assistant superintendent. Fehrman will take on some of the responsibilities that she was doing as the assistant superintendent and will delegate other responsibilities.
Some responsibilities she cannot take on as superintendent. For example, in her previous role as assistant superintendent, Fehrman could make a decision in support of a different department or support something in student discipline and if there was an appeal it would go to the superintendent.
“However, sitting in that [superintendent] role I have to delegate that to another person so that I can be that final person to look at appeals,” Fehrman said. “Some of those are student discipline, supervision of human resources, also supervision of our research and analytics department, school leadership teams, staff evaluations, professional learning, PBIS as well as our leadership development. Those are things that I have to find places to uphold those responsibilities.”
Fehrman will continue to supervise the school principals to maintain a close relationship and will continue to supervise the district improvement planning process.
— The School Board also discussed the updated board norms, which are the standards set for working together positively and productively as a group. The Board of Education Governance Handbook includes the board’s vision, mission, priorities and norms.
The three priorities listed in the handbook are advancing racial equity, accelerating student learning and building a positive culture and climate.
One change to the handbook relates to public comments at School Board meetings. The updated section states the public comments are expected and that it is not meant to be a question and answer period. The total amount of time allotted for public comment is one hour or 20 speakers. The time limit for speakers is three minutes.
Comments made during public comments should be addressed to the board as a whole and not to individual members. The board chair has the discretion to ask someone to step down or be muted if they violate the public comment policy.
Another update states that the school board will not use board committees and acknowledges that the superintendent regularly forms committees, that are not comprised of board members, to gather input and solve problems. The superintendent will then present summary findings and recommendations from the committee to the School Board for their information.
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