Frustrations over the persistent Covid-19 virus pandemic continue for Wayland Union school officials.
The Board of Education met for a work session Monday evening and held a closed session for about two hours for evaluation of Supt. Dr. Christina Hinds. After board members returned to open session, they gave Hinds an “effective” rating and they mostly discussed how to handle Covid-caused shutdowns of buildings in the district.
“The agenda was established with the superintendent evaluation workshop as the first topic as we had a consultant from MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards) facilitating the evaluation,” the superintendent said.
Closed sessions customarily occur at the end of public meetings.
The high school has been back in session for a week for in-person learning after switching March 8 for two weeks to all virtual sessions. Some parents were not pleased because it caused shutdown of athletic contests for those last two weeks.
All of the district’s elementaries and the middle school have continued in-person classroom sessions during the period.
Hinds told members there are no plans yet to return to the hybrid model in the wake of the third surge of the virus. Thornapple Kellogg and Hastings schools most recently also switched to all on-line learning because of virus case numbers spiking.
During the work session, “Much time was spent discussing possible ECOL adjustments to ensure we’re doing all we can to keep students in school, specifically at the high school,” Hinds said.
She said the decision March 5 to shut down the high school was not made unilaterally, it was done after consulting with the Allegan County Health Department and with Board President Dan Cassini. The decision “followed the recommendation of the Allegan County Health Department to reduce the likelihood of spread within the building”
The superintendent outlined a couple of tweaks in the Covid plan, including eliminating temperature checks being conducted outdoors before students enter the building because they too often aren’t accurate.
But board members weren’t reticent about being frustrated about Covid and the challenges of the past year.
Vice President Pete Zondervan asked, “Is this a school issue? A lot of people in the community don’t wear masks and don’t respect it. I think it’s a cultural issue, a social issue, a political issue.”
He added that he stopped at a local gas station and noticed no fewer than seven people maskless.
Janel Hott said, “I don’t think we’re making a lot of progress and it’s frustrating.”
Jason Shane said, “This is a bigger problem than just in the schools, and I don’t think we’re going fix it.”
Hinds said there are 38 more school days left on the 2020-21 academic calendar, so the top priority is keep the kids in school safe at least until then.
Shane added, “I believe that come fall things will be much different,” noting the vaccinations.
But Theresa Dobry insisted the last part of the school year is very important and she didn’t want to have to go through what her senior daughter faced a year ago.