With the number of COVID-19 cases in the Wadena-Deer Creek schools in “really good shape at the moment,” hybrid learning is continuing, as Superintendent Lee Westrum said. And if cases remain low, 7-12th grade students will return to four days of in-person learning on Feb. 1.

Students returned to hybrid learning on Jan. 19 after a two week distance learning period. Students in pre-K-6th grade have in-person classes Monday to Thursday with kindergarten-6th graders having distance learning on Fridays. Seventh-12th graders alternate in-person days with Fridays also a distance learning day.

School board members Ryan Damlo and Missy Seelhammer noted their hope to add half-days on Fridays in the near future. The distance learning Fridays have been quickly finished work, though the days can also be helpful for students needing extra help, as Damlo and Seelhammer said. The school will be considering a half-day or late start after the Feb. 1 schedule change. The school is required to provide a half hour of extra prep time per day for teachers.

As Minnesota is working to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccines, the state opened nine pilot sites for people over the age of 65 and school teachers, school staff members and child care workers. The schools were asked to prioritize staff based on working at an elementary so students can remain in-person as well as age and health conditions. Westrum said the challenge here is not actually knowing people’s conditions with health information remaining private. Staff members may be asked to email Westrum about a health condition if they are comfortable.

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With limited vaccines, the state allotted five doses for WDC staff members. The selected staff members will receive the vaccine in Fergus Falls. Westrum said hopefully the school will get increased allowances of people each week.

While a timeline is unknown, WDC looks forward to having a vaccination clinic at the school for staff members who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Staff can also have a COVID-19 test during a few hours at the elementary and middle/high schools starting Jan. 21. The testing will be available every week with staff able to be tested every two weeks.

The board also followed the recommendation of the Minnesota School Board Association and other school districts in extending 10 days of leave to June 30, 2021. Staff members can have up to 10 days of paid leave if they test positive for COVID-19, need to quarantine or need to take care of a family member with COVID-19. The leave policy started under the federal CARES Act and expired in December 2020.

And for a change that will impact staff and students, inclement weather days in the 2020-21 school year can be distance learning days. If it looks like it'll be a snow day, Westrum can send a notice to staff about students having their devices or packets as well as letting parents know of the change the day prior. Not all inclement weather days will be distance learning days but the option is there. School administration and board members stressed the change is to avoid having make-up days rather than taking away the enjoyment of a snow day.

In other actions, the board approved:

  • Members remaining in their positions with Dan Lawson as chair; Pete Hayes vice chair; Ryan Damlo clerk and Missy Seelhammer treasurer.

  • The school board meetings for the third Monday of the month except for holidays and the June and July meetings at 5:30 p.m. The meetings will return to the Memorial Auditorium for now.

  • The Wadena Pioneer Journal as the official publication.

  • The official depositories as Wadena State Bank, Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund and MNTrust.

  • Financial authorizations for the business manager, senior bookkeeper and student activity administrative assistant.

  • The superintendent, business manager, senior bookkeeper and principals as the federal program representatives.

  • The board chair and superintendent contacting an attorney as needed.

  • The school board compensation of $2,200 for board members, $600 for chair, $135 for vice chair, clerk and treasurer. The chair position increased from $543. Decreases were also discussed.

  • Part-time employment of school board members as substitutes.

  • Automatically following MSBA policy updates.

  • The paying of the districts’ bills totaling $479,689.94. The acceptance of $1,000 in donations.

  • The resignations of Kyle Hagen (Head Wrestling Coach), Jeremy Hagen (Assistant Wrestling Coach) and LeAnne Johnson (MS/HS Nurse).

  • The hires of Barb Schmitz (Elementary Nurse), Zach Martin (JH Girls’ Basketball Coach), Kyle Petermeier (JH Girls’ Basketball Coach), Brad Wollum (Head Wrestling Coach), Anthony Kern (Assistant Wrestling Coach) and Lucinda Wegscheid (Elementary Paraprofessional).

  • The lane changes of Kyle Petermeier and Stephanie Pulver.

  • The seniority lists of teachers, administrative assistants, bookkeepers, custodians, school cooks, administrators, educational assistants and school bus drivers.

The board also recognized paraprofessionals for their many roles during the pandemic including, cleaning, child care, meals and connecting on Zoom while continuing to work with students and teachers.