To abide by the social distancing rules put in place by health officials combating the spread of COVID-19, some members of the Newton Community School District Board of Education attended Monday night’s meeting remotely.
A small camera was taped onto the podium and pointed directly at school board president Robyn Friedman and business services director Tim Bloom, allowing those board members on their phones or computers to see the meeting in real time online. It was a small but needed challenge.
Broadcasted onto three screens — positioned in the south, east and north walls of the room — were the faces of board members Josh Cantu, Donna Cook, Cody Muhs and Graham Sullivan. Meanwhile, the press was placed at separate tables. The meeting met the 10-person maximum.
Nearby chairs were spread six feet apart. And the process of open forum changed, too. Instead of having residents leave their homes, the school district has asked they call in advance to share their complaints so they may be addressed as promptly as possible.
This is what school board meetings will look like until further notice.
NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan began the meeting with a COVID-19 update and the school’s closure plan. All non-essential staff, he said, have been placed on emergency leave with pay.
Essential personnel have been identified as: the superintendent’s office, business office, human resources, teaching and learning, maintenance, head custodial, technology, child nutrition/food services/managers and transportation/mechanics. They will be paid to work their scheduled hours.
Principals are excluded from this list. Callaghan said, however, they may be needed at times for remote meetings or conference calls and must be made available during this closure, which lasts until April 13.
All teachers will remain under their certified contracts during this time and must also be available for meetings. The school board also unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to suspend policy allowing classified personnel to be paid during this time, too.
Administrators still maintain their contracts. And since supervisors and managers are considered essential they will continue to work during the closure. Long-term teacher substitutes covering another position will be paid until the job would have ended during this closure.
Since Callaghan announced Newton’s campuses would be closing following the statewide recommendation of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, the school district has addressed community needs and has had to make difficult decisions — especially when it comes to planned events.
For instance, a number of field trips were cancelled, as were the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) tests. High school administrators also announced Monday that prom was cancelled due to the rapid spread of COVID-19.
Bret Miller, director of teaching and learning, said in an online update addressed to Cardinal families the school district “would like to support students and families by providing educational resources for you to use at your discretion.” This kind of learning is not meant to replace classroom work.
“Rather, we want to provide access to learning opportunities students may participate in while away from school,” he said in the March 20 udpate. “Beginning next week, teachers and administrators will be formalizing plans for how and what resources will be sent out.”
Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or firstname.lastname@example.org