Providing a safe environment for students to return to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic is foremost in the minds of school leaders heading into 2021.

Waseca Public Schools Superintendent Eric Hudspith said the district will be focusing on three key ideas moving into 2021.

“The first is to focus on really making sure the dialogue is on learning and academic success to students and hopefully getting them into more in-person learning,” Hudspith said.

He said this is an immediate goal of the district after COVID-19 has kept students learning from home most of the last year.

The final two goals he shared focus on the 2019-2024 Strategic Plan the district has in place.

Hudspith’s second goal is to continue to offer a variety of programs for students. These courses could be college preparation courses as well to continue to make sure students have options, while staying on budget. This falls under the academic Program area in the district’s Strategic Plan.

The final goal is finalizing a list of potential facility updates and maintenance needs, he said. When the district completes the list of potential facilities, Hudspith said he will communicate with the community about the ideas and residents will have a chance to give input. The timeline for this project will depend on the economy.

“All three of those are directly related to our strategic plan and creating learners that are prepared for after high school and preparing to have options after they graduate,” Hudspith said.

JWP School District

Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton School District will focus on four main areas in 2021, according to Superintendent Kurt Stumpf.

The district will continue a safe and healthy school environment to provide in-person learning as much as possible for all students, work on open communication with the community, continue to implement the JWP Strategic Plan, and the school board will review the HVAC systems and other maintenance projects to ensure a detailed plan is created for 2021, Stumpf said.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed numerous aspects of school for students, staff and families. Students missed out on activities, sports, in-person class, events and numerous other things due to the school prioritizing the safety of the students.

For the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, JWP Buildings and Grounds Director Mike Daschner and the District Nurse Sonja Highum created a COVID-19 safety plan in conjunction with other JWP staff, Minnesota Department of Health guidelines and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

The plan included: continuous cleaning throughout the school day, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, propping doors open so students and staff don’t need to touch the generally high touch zone, bathroom doors will also have kick petals for easier opening, bathrooms will be disinfected three times a day, water fountains will only be used to fill water bottles and classes were held outside as often as possible depending on the weather. Every classroom also received a cleaning care package from Daschner to use daily. The package included rubber gloves, disinfectant bottles, buckets, micro rags, soap and bags for masks.

Protocols are still in place for students and the staff is continuing to update and adjust the plan to keep students, staff and families safe, Stumpf said.

In 2021, the school plans to continue to offer the safest environment it can create to keep students in kindergarten through sixth grade in-person and providing the best hybrid learning environment for the seventh through 12th grade students, he said.

Communication with the community and stakeholders is also key in 2021 to meet the other goals that have been set, he said.

The district also plans to continue to implement its 2020-2023 strategic plan, which outlines the goals for the school district to achieve in the coming years.

The JWP School Board plans to assess the HVAC systems this year, including the dehumidification and other maintenance projects, according to Stumpf. The school board requested bids in 2019 for a new HVAC system, including a dehumidification system for the high school gym. After reviewing the bid options, the board decided to pass on all bids because they were over the original budget estimates given by ISG engineering firm of Mankato.

Reach Associate Editor Lisa Kaczke at 507-444-2371. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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