Face coverings will not be required for staff or students at Delta County schools to begin the 2021-22 school year. The school district revealed a number of preliminary COVID-19 health and safety protocols during the July 15 school board meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay told the board that while the face coverings will not be mandatory, those who still wish to wear them may do so. He also emphasized that the mask protocol is subject to change depending on the state.
“If we had a little up tick that could change but as of right now we’re not planning on having any masks at the schools,” he said.
According to the preliminary guidelines, face coverings will not be required in any educational space or activity including school buses, athletics or other activities; however, the district will support any individual who chooses to wear masks.
In addition to face coverings, the district will not make COVID immunizations mandatory for staff or students. Clay said the district will continue to promote getting the vaccine for families, staff and students who are interested.
Under the guidelines, a staff member or student who is immunocompromised and unable to receive the vaccine can request for special accommodations. The district will allow a teacher who is immunocompromised and unable to take the vaccine to request that his/her students wear masks while in their classroom.
Quarantines of healthy/non-symptomatic students and staff will be discontinued under the new guidelines. Starting in the fall if a student/staff member tests positive for COVID-19 or shows symptoms they will be asked to isolate for 10 days unless they can show proof of immunization. The person in isolation may return to school if they receive a negative test result after day five of the isolation period.
“Quarantines are not completely discontinued but for the most part, the way we’ve done them in the past, they’re discontinued,” said Clay, adding that there may still be quarantines for contact sport teams.
Also under the guidelines, the district pledges to make COVID-19 testing more accessible for symptomatic students/staff. The district will encourage but not impose any physical distancing measures, they will promote good hand washing and do normal sanitation at all facilities.
For the most part, Clay said the district will return to normal operations when it comes to visitors, athletics, and extracurricular activities. He said COVID mandates and policies may change from district to district. Clay also told the board that CHSAA will likely come out with its own guidelines and for now all sporting schedules are normal for next year.
Clay also reported on the renovation and remodeling work taking place at the North Fork High School and the Paonia K-8 school. He began his presentation showing detailed blueprints for the new baseball field at the North Fork High School.
“We’re going to do this project in phases, obviously we can’t do it all at one time,” Clay said, “The first phase is getting the sidewalk and the rest room up there.” While the plans have not been finalized, they do include an ADA accessibility sidewalk from the high school to the field.
The school district teamed up with the booster clubs from both Paonia and Hotchkiss to replace the football scoreboard. The combined North Fork High School booster club and the school district will split the cost.
The top banner of the scoreboard has an LED screen allowing businesses to advertise. The scoreboard can also be used for track meets with the top portion being used to scroll times, meet results, school announcements or messages with the potential to run replay footage as well.
“Also, we’re going to be a frontrunner on the Western Slope with this type of scoreboard,” added Superintendent Caryn Gibson, “So, it’s going to be fun.”
Clay said the scoreboard should arrive at the end of August with plans to have it ready for the first game or later of the Miner’s homecoming game.
Gibson said the first option is just over $19,000 while the second option is over $32,000. The school district, the high school and the booster club have agreed to go with the second option. She said the school district will pay $15,000 with the booster club and high school paying the remaining amount plus any additional infrastructure costs.
Gibson advised the school board that the North Fork football field scoreboard is not in the reconfiguration budget; however, the board approved to take money from an under budgeted item to pay its portion on the scoreboard.
Clay also mentioned that the new North Fork Miner’s logo was recently hand painted on the gym floor. He said the logo will need two coats to cover up the old Bulldog logo.
In other school board news, the district will be paying back roughly $77,000 to the Colorado Department of Education following a transportation fund audit from the state.
Gibson said the total program count for 2014-2018 looked at the district’s total student count taken every October. There were some discrepancies in counts during those years.
“This is the first time in nine years that I can remember this audit coming to the school district. It’s a good thing and a good learning opportunity,” Gibson said, adding later that the state combined both the pupil count and the transportation audit to derive the total payback.
She said while the school district’s audit was good, there were a few small discrepancies for Vision Charter Academy. The charter school will need to pay back $25,000 for its miscalculation of full-time students and some reduced lunch student tallies.
In school years 2013-17, the district was off on its pupil transportation and non-pupil transportation counts. Gibson said the audit also shows route miles versus activity miles. The result showed the need for the district to correct its coding. The district will pay back just over $51,000.
“But for all of those years’ that they pull, we are fine. We knew the audit was coming and we had the dollars and budgeted for it. Vision Charter will be paying the school district their portion. We’ll send one check off to the Colorado Department of Education,” said Gibson.
The school district’s fiscal year ended June 30; however, the district is continuing through the month of July to close out last year. Delta County property taxes are at 86% to date, the number will increase once all the taxes are accounted for.
To date the school district has hired 43 new certified staff which is about 40% higher than a normal year. Gibson said the district will be entering into a busy time hiring classified staff in the next few weeks.
“We lost a few to Mesa County, we lost a few to Montrose County or some kinda moved back home or transferring back to where they lived,” Gibson said.