The Big Spring School Board received COVID-related guidelines updates from Superintendent Dr. Richard Fry during the Oct. 5 Committee of the Whole meeting.
Fry noted a review of guidelines for spectators at athletic events.
“This board on Sept. 21, we developed and moved on spectator attendance information,” he said. “What we did for those was follow the 25 and 250 guideline set by our governor and Department of Health. So, our plan had that criteria in there. We thought it was prudent. Number one, we thought it was a mandate at that point from the governor and also from an insurance perspective, and when you go against a mandate, you’re exposing yourselves in some really challenging ways. The challenge with that was moving forward, if we had any flexibility, and where we’d look to change that would be football games. We could allow a few more folks in and also volleyball to allow parents to attend because at 25, parents weren’t getting in.”
“Then we had a ruling by the Western Federal District Court,” Fry added. “It was ruled Sept. 23, and it said the initial shutdown of the state as regard to businesses was unconstitutional and also the current 25 and 250 was unconstitutional. Twenty-five and 250 was the only thing affected by that ruling now. Unfortunately, the Western Federal District Court doesn’t have jurisdiction for us. When a really unfortunate side of case law, which he based his decision on, was case law from 1905 on freedom to congregate. That case law from 1905 was repudiated in 1930. So, it was a pretty sketchy decision.”
“The governor appealed and his appeal goes to the same judge, so it’s pretty obvious how that decision would go,” said Fry. “Now we’re stuck in a situation where the western part of the state was setting individual plans and starting to do it our way. This is the momentum, it’s our homecoming weekend. We have our first home volleyball match. Thursday at 2 p.m., in the fourth legal rendering since we started school, the third circuit board issued a stay on behalf of the governor. We’re going to listen to his appeal and it’s a stay meaning the 25 and 250 is back in place.”
“At that point, for us and for me as the superintendent, the train is too far down the tracks, for volleyball and that Friday night home football game,” Fry added. “I can tell you most districts felt the train was too far down the tracks and didn’t take it back for this last weekend.”
“So, that brings us to tonight,” he said. “That was an athletic discussion, but it’s also a discussion of not having our public here because our board is lumped in the 25 number. From the board’s side on this or public participation beyond the virtual side, my advice is we need to be patient and wait to see what happens. Let's see what the governor has to say later this week. We’ve been promised some updates in that regard and we’ll have that discussion at the next board meeting.”
Dr. Fry and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kevin Roberts also discussed the Elementary Tier 3 Transition Planning during the meeting.
“Our incident rate, which is our community spread, popped a little bit last week,” Fry noted. “It went from 28.6 to 46.9. So, we’re clearly now sitting in the moderate range. When you look at type of instructional model for moderate, it’s really what we’re living with the A/B schedule model. It doesn’t go to low until you get below 10.”
“The positivity rate went from 2.5 to 3.9, and that 3.9 started to approach a little bit more of the state average,” Fry added. “Starting this week is when we’re getting more specific within data and our protocols to look where we’re at and how we could potentially transition to getting our elementary students back at an everyday face-to-face format if the families choose to do that. They still have the live-stream option.”
Roberts noted, “What we’re looking at is having some discussions in transportation and what this would mean if we were looking at moving from Tier 2 to Tier 3 at the elementary level. Last Friday, we met with our transportation department to have the conversation as this is something we’re planning for. They have started that planning. It will change the transportation for kindergarten students as they move from a half-day program to Tier 3 being a full-day program.”
“Dr. Fry has been plugged in since the onset of COVID with all the neighboring superintendents,” he added. “Some of those school districts currently do operate at the elementary level, full face-to-face instruction. We’re going to hear what they’re struggling with, what they’ve learned about the systems they’ve put in place and what we can use for our planning.”
“Next week, we’ll formally initiate planning with our department heads, our elementary principals, and really dig into some of the challenges we think could be there,” Roberts said. “One specifically is food services. The ability to deliver our meals; our lunches in the cafeteria right now are a major benefit with the reduced number of students that we have, so we can spread them out and stick to it, essentially the same lunch periods that we had before. As we move to doubling the number of students we’re serving in the spaces, we have to think about additional extensions of those lunch periods so that we can continue to meet our social distancing guidelines.”
“All in anticipation for the week of Nov. 9, that Monday Nov. 9 is a potential kickoff date for moving to Tier 3 if all of our planning moves in a direction where we believe the information that’s in front of us shows us that we can safely return to Tier 3 instruction for the elementary level,” said Roberts. “If we weren’t ready by that date, Dr. Fry would make sure that we had a date that made sense when we were ready to move in that direction. That date gives us two and a half weeks before the Thanksgiving break to test the system that we’ve built, and then if there’s something that we need to change, that Thanksgiving break gives us the ability to go back through and evaluate anything that we think needs to be improved.”