The Sioux City School Board had a busy agenda with two major topics up for discussion.
The first was changing the mask policy in the district, giving the superintendent the ability to require masks in separate buildings on an "as needed" temporary basis when the positivity rate in that building reaches a certain threshold. This mandate would be enacted if the building reaches a 3% positivity rate among students and staff.
That would require all people who are in the building to wear a mask for 5 school days and it would be extended past 5 days if the building remains at or above 3%. The district says the goal is to keep schools open.
"So I think that really is the driving discussion behind all of this and board members saying keeping our buildings open is the most important thing," said board president Dan Greenwell. "Nobody is going to be happy about everything, but I think this is a reasonable balance for all folks."
Now with unanimous board approval, Superintendent Dr. Paul Gausman can enact a 5-school day mask mandate per building when that 3% threshold is reached. Last week, three buildings were above the 3% threshold on Friday.
"We have to recognize that this district is 67 square miles and what is happening on one side of town often isn't happening quite the same way on the other side of town. That's even true on a day when it's snowing," said Dr. Gausman. If we don't control it by that 3% mark, it appears to balloon a little out of control and I don't want that to happen for any of our students and certainly not our staff members."
Dr. Gausman receives reports daily from each building and will determine if that mask mandate will be enacted the night before. Similar to other school closings, students, parents and staff will be contacted via social media, phone calls, texts and email. If you are not receiving these messages, you are asked to reach out to the district.
Should a mask mandate be issued for a building, everyone who enters that building will be required to wear a mask, unless they already have an approved medical or religious exemption. This includes at sporting events, concerts and other activities held within the buildings during those 5 school days.
The district is also administering rapid COVID-19 tests at each building. These are completely voluntary and available for staff and students. The district administered 277 tests the week of January 10th through 14th, with 84 positive results.
Also at the school board meeting, the board discussed pay increases for several levels of employees within the district. Para-professionals, instructional assistants and many others will be seeing a bump in their paycheck. Board president Dan Greenwell says this decision was needed and it is just the beginning of this discussion for the board.
"We got out of sync with the market in our hourly pay. The board recognized that. These folks were underpaid, by any market standard they were underpaid," Greenwell said after the meeting. "We are going to continue to look at some other hourly positions. Of course, we believe some hourly positions are at market rate and we don't see changes across the board. We are looking at group by group and individuals by individuals."
Over 400 staff within the district will be seeing that pay hike which takes effect on February 1st.
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