College Board revises COVID-19 practices, votes down contract with Black Hills Particular Companies | Training
The Rapid City Area Schools Board of Education passed a resolution updating practices related to COVID-19 on Tuesday night – changes that include eliminating “documentation of close contacts and those in quarantine.” The changes will revise the policies outlined in the school district’s “Ready. Set. Begin. 2021-2022 Back to School Plan.”
The motion passed 4-0, with members Amy Policky and Troy Carr absent with notice.
The board also opted not to renew a contract with Black Hills Special Services Cooperative for “Community, Family, and Culture Engagement services regarding the development and coordination for the Rapid City Title 1 Schools.” The contract would be paid from the district’s federal Title 1 funding.
District Nurse Manager Dr. Amber Tilberg explained the changes surrounding COVID-19, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered guidelines on Dec. 27, 2021.
“The guidelines, as I tried to state in the background information of this proposal, are very based on an individual’s choices to vaccinate, their choice to vaccinate and then get a booster,” Tilberg said.
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She noted other changes within CDC recommendations, as well, creating what she described as a more complicated set of circumstances than existed in the past.
“With all of those things together, it is really something that our nurses cannot police,” she said.
Tilberg emphasized that she and other staff members inform families of the CDC guidelines, but she added, “We can’t manage what families choose.”
After the meeting, Tilberg explained further.
“The CDC guidelines that have come out are largely based on what people have done,” she said, including vaccination and booster status.
“Those are all questions that we don’t have access to,” she said. “If I don’t know vaccination status, then I can’t give them proper guidance. What this does: It puts it back in the family’s court and says, ‘You need to make the decision that’s best for your child and best for your family and your student.’ We will support whatever decision they make, but I’m not going to make it for them.”
Before the additional variables entered, she said, the guidelines were more clear-cut.
“Now, there are a lot of different variables, and so it’s too hard to keep track of them so we’re not going to,” she said.
She noted the way this change will affect the COVID dashboard on the school district’s website.
“The COVID dashboard will only track positive cases that were reported to us,” she said. “It will not track close contacts. The dashboard will just say how many people are COVID positive right now, and how many have recovered, but it will not say how many people are close contacts.”
During the meeting, board member Clay Colombe thanked Tilberg and the medical staff.
“I just want to say, thank you, Dr. Tilberg to you and your staff for everything you’ve done over the last few years,” he said. “I know this job hasn’t been easy, but you guys have done an amazing job.”
Tilberg emphasized the medical staff’s concern regarding COVID-19.
“As a nursing staff, we understand that COVID can be serious and it is serious for many families,” she said. “It has found itself in a lot of what we do every day.”
The updated plan includes a number of specific changes in a summary attached to Tuesday’s agenda and available on the district’s website.
The board did not pass, on Tuesday, a renewal of an agreement with Black Hills Special Services Cooperative “to obtain Community, Family, and Culture Engagement services regarding the development and coordination for the Rapid City Title 1 Schools.”
Jackie Talley, director of federal programs for the school district, said the total contract of $84,958 for July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 was funded by the district’s federal Title 1 grant. She noted a number of activities with students and families BHSSC has helped to provide.
“In addition, all Title 1 schools are required, as well as the district, to have a family and community engagement plan, which we just finished up this last year with them,” Talley added. “They go out and assist every one of those nine schools in the development of that plan. Those types of services go above and beyond what a principal and a teacher can provide in a day’s time, or in a year’s time.”
Second vice president Jim Hansen extolled the work of BHSSC.
“I’ve been around Black Hills Special Services from the get-go,” he said. “They do things that break your heart – things that nobody wants to do. They are phenomenal.”
He emphasized that the money for the contract under consideration on Tuesday would come out of Title 1 funds, not the general funds.
“When it comes to Black Hills Special Services, I can’t tell you how much they do for our entire state,” he added. “It is really, truly a phenomenal organization. They’re educators themselves … and they have found their niche in helping with kids who are special, special needs.”
Board President Kate Thomas and member Deb Baker both voted no on the contract. First Vice President Gabe Doney abstained. Colombe and Hansen both voted yes, for a tally that lacked a majority of affirmative votes.
After the meeting, Thomas said the contract’s consideration may return at a future meeting.
“I think it can, yes,” she said, adding that she wanted to receive more detailed information about the activities involved.
“I want to make sure that (the money) is being spent properly,” Thomas said, “and I just didn’t get a feel for what they do.”
During the public comment section, a student from Rapid City High School made a statement to the board, citing policy from the National Center for Transgender Equality and noting the following: “I am a transgender student, and I have to use the bathroom in the office, which is three to four flights of stairs every day, which takes away time from my education and learning …
“It kind of hurts when I have to walk down a lot of stairs, especially since I have a high blood pressure problem … I just wanted to bring this issue to your guys’ attention so hopefully we could come to an agreement or solve the problem .”
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