PALMER — Mat-Su Borough School District Superintendent Dr. Monica Goyette attended her last school board meeting as superintendent as the school board unanimously approved the contract for incoming superintendent Dr. Randy Trani.
Goyette informed the board of the possibilities for reentering instruction in the fall and schedule changes to accomodate school building usage for primary and general election days. Aligned with state guidelines, Goyette and the COVID-19 working group that meets weekly are prepared to offer instruction to students in three ways, using a stoplight as an analogy. With low risk, students would be permitted back inside school buildings with distancing measures and sanitizing procedures taking place.
“There may be parents that have vulnerable members of their family or their student might be high risk and so they can opt in to an at home learning model. This is teacher supported, this will not be the same as when we did remote learning,” said Goyette.
Goyette then detailed the ‘yellow light’ and ‘red light’ plans for mild to moderate COVID-19 infection in the Mat-Su and high rates of infection. Goyette pontificated that she believes with medium risk, the state will likely ask school districts to reenter school buildings in a blended model.
“We initially started talking about a day on day off rotating schedule, the more we continued to talk about that, we really felt like a week on week off schedule would be better,” said Goyette.
With each half of the student body for each school gone for nine days at a time, any infection would likely be able to be shown in symptoms prior to the student returning to school, and disinfecting surfaces would only need to occur weekly rather than daily. Goyette stressed that even if low infection is present in the Valley, students who are high risk or students with high risk family members will still be able to receive their instruction remotely. A ‘red light’ model with high rates of infection would return to a completely remote model of delivering instruction. Each individual school will be able to address COVID-19 concerns and make their own decisions, as Goyette described the disparity between larger core area schools and rural schools with a lower student population that could remain open while other schools provide a blended model of learning.
Goyette also presented a change in the proposed schedule, allowing teachers to return Aug. 12 and students returning to school buildings on Aug. 19, pushing the start of school back six days.
Houston Middle School’s 95 percent design to retrofit the school damaged by the November 2018 earthquake passed unanimously. The new design includes a section for Career and Technical Education. Though funding must still be approved by the Mat-Su Borough Assembly, MSBSD Director of Operations Mike Brown said that the plan for construction must be prepared to utilize the funding currently available.
The School Board also passed the FY 2021 budget after a lengthy discussion about school counts and how boundary exemptions work for students in the district. Member Ole Larson questioned whether schools that are receiving additional teaching staff and portable buildings for next year were continuing to receive students through boundary exemptions past their projected count, which does not occur in the district. After several hearings, the school district’s budget passed unanimously.
Dr. Randy Trani’s contract was approved by the school board unanimously. Trani will take over as the new superintendent for the fall 2020 semester.