The Yellow Medicine East School Board held a special meeting on Monday, August 24 to continue their discussion about safely bringing students back to class. The big item on the agenda was a resolution adopting the “Learning Scenario for 2020-21.” The resolution follows recommendations made several weeks ago by Superintendent Rich Schneider for YME to adopt three different learning models depending on documented COVID-19 cases in the district.

As previously reported in this paper, there are three models YME will use during academic year: in-person, hybrid, and distance. In the official YME Learning Plan released to the public last week, Superintendent Schneider said that “our survey data indicates that families prefer to return to on-site (in-person or hybrid) models for the students. Our plans reflect the desire to support this preference but also reflect the necessity for safety for students and staff members.” Making this happen will require the district to maintain sufficiently low cases. Schneider informed the Board that the district would be closely monitoring cases, and that adjustments might have to be made during the course of the academic year.

In the language of the resolution passed by the School Board Monday night, “The Superintendent is hereby authorized, after consultation with the School Board Chair and notification to the School Board, to select and implement a different Learning Model for the School District or any specific school buildings without School Board action if the Superintendent reasonably believes that prompt implementation of a different Learning Model is necessary, and that constraints of time and public health considerations render it impractical to hold a School Board meeting to approve the implementation. The Learning Model selected and implemented by the Superintendent shall continue in effect unless and until the School Board, in consultation with the Superintendent and appropriate school district staff and public health officials, deems it in the best interest of the School District and its students to implement a different Learning Model.”

The resolution also requires the Superintendent to “provide regular updates to the School Board regarding the School District’s efforts to implement COVID-19 related educational and public health guidance issued by the MDE and the MDH, respectively.”

Additional resources are available for teachers through their district health benefits. Additional details have also been released to the YME community regarding strategies the district will employ to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst students and staff members. Training and educational initiatives have been implemented for maintenance/custodial staff, teachers, students, food services, and transportation employees.

Items like Door handles of classrooms, locker rooms, bathrooms and entrances, bottle fillers, front office counters (BRE, MS/HS & District), handrails, light switches, and elevator buttons will be cleaned and disinfected three times every day. Items such as conference room tables and chair armrests/grip areas, office desks (BRE, MS/HS & District), appliance handles in break rooms, table and student desktops, chairs and chair handles/grabs, cabinet handles/pulls, and classroom sink faucets will be cleaned and disinfected at least once each day.

MDH and CDC recommend that people are screened before or upon entering a building. A poster outlining the symptoms will be posted at each school building entrance. According to the district plan, YME will conduct proactive screenings of all staff members and staff members will log their data through the use of an online daily health assessment self-reporting form which will aid in monitoring staff health and a tool for contact tracing. Staff members are strongly encouraged to complete this form at home before reporting to the building. Stations for collecting this information will be located in each building.

YME is also taking steps to look after the mental health of students. Superintendent Schneider noted that the pandemic has caused “stress, fear, and anxiety for many people,” and elaborated on how mental health professionals in the district would be available to those who need it.