BELOIT — The Beloit School District Board of Education is planning to reopen with some type of in-person learning option on term 4 which begins in early April.
The school board met starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday and at about 2 a.m. Wednesday it voted unanimously for interim Superintendent Dan Keyser to bring back a revised reopening plan addressing concerns shared by staff, families and board members.
“The consensus of the board is that kids need to get back to school, but it needs to happen with safe timing and ensuring that all safety precautions are tested, operated and in place,” said Vice President Megan Miller in an interview following the meeting meeting. “Also we felt any kind of reopening plan should be vetted by teachers and parents.”
Tuesday’s meeting with the topic of school reopening with a hybrid model kicked off at 7 p.m. and public comment went until after 1:11 a.m. Wednesday. At that time, Miller said there was about a 5 minute recess.
After the recess, Miller said board member John Wong moved to set aside any more public comment emails and asked to forgo Keyser’s presentation on the hybrid model for reopening school. He asked that the term 3 start with virtual learning in the existing model and to bring back an updated plan as more information is available on vaccinations with the intention of reopening for term 4. In addition to that language, Miller said Wong asked to continue to bring in small groups of high need students that need in-person support, and asked originally to resume sports and extracurricular activities.
However, board member Amiee Leavy requested more information on a potential sports reopening from Athletic Director Joel Beard. The vote on in person sports and extracurricular activities will take place Jan. 26, Miller said.
Wong agreed with Leavy’s friendly amendment which was seconded by board member Spencer Anderson, Miller said.
If the Jan. 26 vote passes there will be in-person sports and extra-curricular activities, Miller said.
The date for the school reopening vote hasn’t been determined yet, but will happen sometime in March. Miller noted board member Stephanie Jacobs withdrew her motion from the Dec. 15 meeting to reopening with a hybrid model on Feb. 1.
Miller also added that students with individual education plans will be prioritized for in-person instructional support.
At close to 2 a.m. Wednesday, Miller said the board voted for Keyser to bring back a revised reopening plan addressing concerns shared by staff, families and board members. Although the vote was unanimous, it didn’t include a vote by Board President Kyle Larsen. At around 10 p.m., Larsen sent fellow board members an email that he was resigning. He has declined any further comment on the reasons for his resignation.
Miller said a new detailed survey for families and staff with more in depth questions will go out soon.
“We reached consensus that we wanted a survey that was more specific, got more in-depth and made more of an effort to reach into every community of Beloit,” Miller said.
Miller said there were a lot of concerns expressed at the meeting about the high rates of COVID-19 especially among minority communities, and the lack of specific information on safety procedures in reopening.
With educators having the option to get vaccinations in coming weeks, it makes sense to wait a bit longer to reopen for in-person learning, Miller said.
“It leaves time for vaccines and for community spread to get under control, to get a lot more teacher and family input and gives us time how to transition kids back into school who are going to need intervention,” Miller said.
Miller said concerns were raised by staff and families that there wasn’t enough communication and details on the proposed plan. There were also concerns the COVID-19 rates are far too high in Rock County to ensure safety for students and staff.
When asked if the board would consider starting meetings earlier to allow for such a large volume of public comment Miller said: “We could discuss that. I’ think next time we’ll hold a public hearing first and then vote a different day.”