Dexter Board of Education Bulletin: May 10 School Board Meeting

The May 10th Board of Education meeting was held both in person in the Bates Boardroom and streamed online via Zoom to allow the opportunity for all community members to participate during the pandemic.

COVID Data Update
Dr. Timmis presented the latest information from both the COVID-19 Data Review and DCS Dashboard. Citing previous weeks’ case numbers, Timmis shared student and staff positive case numbers have increased slightly, but appear to be leveling out. Student quarantine numbers have been high, with 5 classrooms quarantining in recent weeks, but those numbers are beginning to decrease as well.

Moving to Washtenaw County data, the infection rate is also in significant decline, standing at 0.7% as of May 7th. In mid-April, the county was seeing around 2300 positive cases over a two-week period; most recently, positive cases are less than 900, giving the county a 3% positivity rate. According to Washtenaw County data, as of May 7th there are 117 positive cases per million with a 3% positivity rate. Using CDC guidelines, our area is in the lower to moderate range for risk, but still high in terms of community spread.

Reconfirmation of Learning Plan
Timmis updated Trustees on the Reconfirmation of Learning Plan, review of which is required each month by The State Aid Act. Dexter’s plan is to continue with current instruction methods: pre-kindergarten is in person every day, elementary students (Y5-6) who choose Homeroom are in person every day and those choosing Home-based are fully virtual. Mill Creek and DHS Homeroom students are in person 4 days/week, with a full virtual option for Home-based students. Dexter also continues to increase in-person services for special education students (per IEPs), ELL students and other special populations. Attendance data shows a 97% participation rate over a two-week period.

Overall, this plan has worked very well, Timmis shared, with the District only having to quarantine classes as required. Administration is meeting with the Washtenaw County Health Department on both May 11th and May 14th for guidance updates. Timmis closed his remarks by sharing the Board should have a 2021-2022 school calendar to ratify at the May 24th meeting.

Board President Update
Board President Dr. Julie Schumaker noted that the District is planning to provide a full, in-person school model for students next fall as Dr. Timmis has outlined in his Superintendent Updates. With the widespread availability of the vaccine and continued vigilance by our community, the Board is hopeful the next school year will look like a normal school year for our students. She shared Dr. Timmis’s April 14th Superintendent

Update:
“We plan to provide a full, in-person school model for the vast majority of our students in the fall. In addition, and consistent with the offerings we’ve provided to families for many years, we will have a full remote option available. Sign up for a remote option can be made closer to the start of school. Every year, we have many families who work through our virtual options for their students. This year, we know of many students who are thriving in the remote option and may choose to continue in the future. We plan to continue this option for interested families. However, at this time, we want families to know that we will continue to offer this option, but to please plan to register and fill out the normal enrollment information sent by buildings to help us plan appropriately.”

In response to community questions regarding emergency powers granted to Dr. Timmis for the 2020-21 school year, Dr. Schumaker informed attendees this was done in the fall in order to allow him to comply with Executive Orders, MDHHS orders or Washtenaw County Health Department orders to quickly respond to COVID guidance in a timely manner.

Student Representative Update
Aidan Naughton shared that the high school is pretty calm right now. Students have adjusted to the four days/week schedule, and things seem relatively back to normal.

First Public Participation Opportunity
A community member asked about the plan for fall instruction, whether fully virtual classes (i.e., all students virtual rather than both in-person and virtual) will be taught by DCS teachers, and which COVID metrics will be used.

Dr. Timmis responded that the district follows the guidance of the Health and Human Services Department (MDHHS). Currently, the MDHHS metric for quarantining is if an individual is within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or longer in a 24-hour period, and vaccinated individuals don’t necessarily have to quarantine. Timmis explained that next year in-person and virtual students will have teachers solely dedicated to their instruction method.

Consent Items
Trustees approved leave requests for the 2021-2022 school year from Anandkumar Patel, Jessica Elkin and Rebecca Lange.

DHS Course Proposals
Proposals for seven new DHS classes (descriptions in Board packet, pgs. 13-47) were first presented at the April 26th meeting. Board members unanimously approved the following courses for Fall 2021: Positive Psychology, Science and Practice of Strength and Conditioning, Spanish Films and Literature, Bearing Witness, Nutrition & Food Science 2, Science Makerspace and Musical Theater Workshop.

Administrator Salary Levels
Trustees also unanimously approved administrator salary levels for 2021-2022 school year, a routine Board agenda item each May for the upcoming school year.

Reconfirmation of Learning Plan
The Reconfirmation of Learning Plan was unanimously approved by the Board.

WISD Budget
Dr. Timmis walked Trustees through a presentation (Board packet, pgs. 55-92) on the Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD) budget process. Every local school board must adopt a resolution of support or indicate specific recommendations for changes before June 1, 2021. This item was presented for discussion tonight, with a vote to be taken at the May 24th meeting.

WISD Biennial Election
The biennial election for WISD to elect one board member for a six-year term will be held virtually on June 7, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. Dexter Trustees must elect a representative to attend this meeting in order to cast the Dexter BOE’s vote. WISD Board candidate names are not yet available yet, but Trustees will be notified of candidates’ names before Dexter’s May 24th meeting. Voting on both the Dexter representative and the  WISD candidate will take place at the May 24th BOE meeting.

Schools of Choice Discussion
Dr. Timmis shared that the District has received over 200 applications for Schools of Choice (SOC) for the 2021-2022 school year. Approximately 5% of all students across the state (2-3% nationally) will not be returning to school in the fall in favor of homeschooling, family road-tripping, etc. In determining the number of applications to be accepted, the District surveyed current and past families regarding their next year’s plans, reviewed current students applying for SOC, and looked at existing classroom numbers and staffing.

Dexter lost about 250 students this year and, combined with the data collected, this would allow the District to accept around 170 SOC students. Anticipating that approximately 60% of accepted SOC students actually enroll (based on historical figures), accepting this number will maintain current class sizes. Timmis underscored the fact that Dexter will not accept this many SOC applicants every year, but that this is a unique year and families are looking for changes. Between 30 and 50 students who applied are already here and some are siblings of current students. Responding to questions about how SOC applications were selected, Timmis shared that siblings of current SOC students were prioritized, then remaining applications were selected via a lottery system. A Trustee asked about class sizes. Dr. Timmis noted that class sizes are at or below neighboring school districts’ numbers.

In conclusion, Timmis reiterated that this fall will be volatile for determining student count. Life-changing events (divorce, moving, parent job loss, etc.) cause families to change their schooling options, but in limited numbers. COVID-19 is a life-changing event for every family, which has increased the number of schooling changes worldwide.

Second Public Participation Opportunity
A community member asked about a recent email from Athletic Director Mike Bavineau stating fully vaccinated students are no longer required to test weekly for COVID-19 in order to participate in athletics and expressed concern that students will be treated differently based on their vaccination status. Dr. Timmis clarified that athletic guidance regarding vaccinated students comes from MHSAA, not the District.

Board Comments
With no committee updates to report, Trustee Mara Greatorex shared how wonderful it was to hear the high school bands perform last week in their first live concert since February 2020. Greatorex also stated the band is seeing a loss of students due to the pandemic, as it is difficult to learn music virtually. She asked the community to remember the enemy is not teachers, not the Board, not each other; COVID-19 is the enemy we are all fighting.

Closed Session
Shortly after 8pm, the Board moved into closed session to perform the Superintendent’s quarterly evaluation. They returned to open session at approximately 9:25pm, canceled the back-up virtual meeting,
and adjourned for the evening.

The full meeting video can be viewed on the Board of Education website HERE

Upcoming Board Calendar
• Monday, May 24 – 7:00pm – Board Meeting – Bates School
• Monday, June 14 – 7:00pm – Board Meeting – Bates School

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