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In response to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ order to close schools for four weeks, the Mount Ayr Community Schools board of directors met in special session Thursday, March 19 to set policies and procedures relative to the shutdown that currently runs through April 12.
Their first order of business was to pass a resolution assuring hourly district employees they will continue to be paid through the extent of the current shutdown, which expires April 12.
If school closures are extended past April 12, the board will reconvene to determine what steps it needs to take moving forward.
According to the Iowa Association of School Boards, such a policy will help promote morale among district employees and better ensure retention of these employees following the shutdown.
The resolution also provides districts the power to suspend other policies that may conflict with current governmental restrictions.
Next, the board learned of the efforts by the district’s food service to provide breakfasts and lunches to students.
According to the plan, two breakfasts and two lunches will be distributed to students on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays throughout the closure.
The meals will be available for pickup between 8-9 a.m. at six sites within the district: high school west parking lot, Tingley Community Building, Kellerton Community Building, Redding Park, Ellston VFW/Community Center, and Grand River bus stop/Post Office.
The meals are being delivered by district and staff volunteers.
The meals are free to all students up to 18 years of age. Children must be present to pick up meals.
The board also learned of efforts by district teachers to provide learning materials for students.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week, small groups of elementary teachers were allowed in their classrooms to compile learning packets in core subjects along with special education and activities such as art, music, etc.
Monday and Tuesday evenings parents were invited to drive by the main entrance to the elementary building where staff hand-delivered the packets curbside.
At the middle/high school, teachers are loading learning materials online via Google Classroom. Besides core subject matter, the material will include four enhancement opportunities.
For students without Internet access, principal Bill Huntington said he would provide hard copies of all materials.
The district has also sent an email providing a list of several other online learning sites as well as tips for parents working with their students at home.
On a financial note, district superintendent Joe Drake informed the board of two possible unintended consequences facing district budgets.
First, federal Title I dollars cannot be used to pay teachers if they are not working directly with students. As a result, the district will continue to pay Title I teachers from the local general fund.
Second, postponement of property tax collections will likely postpone state aid payments to schools in the upcoming school year.
In both cases, he said Mount Ayr’s strong financial condition will allow the district to withstand such circumstances.
The board asked about contingency plans for upcoming special events like prom and graduation.
Principal Huntington said as of Thursday’s meeting, such events are still in place on the school calendar. He added, however, those plans are dependent upon if the state order to close schools extends beyond April 12.
Superintendent Drake said he hoped state officials would give schools at least a week’s notice to allow districts to make contingency plans for the end of the school year.
State authorities have already stated any days of school missed due to the virus shutdown will be forgiven and not added to current school calendars.