North County school board members were in deep discussion Thursday night, figuring out what the upcoming school year, especially athletic events, would look like amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Athletic Director Chad Mills said the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has been continually revising, as circumstances require, guidelines they set in July concerning student performance in extracurricular activities and academics.
“On my end, what we’d like to do is stay as close as we can to the guidelines that MSHSAA sets forth, so when people want to know the ‘why’, we’re able to tell them we’re following the guidelines,” Mills said.
“In July, they said if (students attend classes) 100% virtual, no sports. So what I sent you is the amendment to that. They’re now saying if your school is 100% virtual, you can have sports. But if you offer face-to-face and virtual, it’s a local decision. Since they’re allowing us to do it, that’s what we recommended. They did that because a lot of St. Louis folks were agitated and MSHSAA listened to them.”
Board President Randy Hubbard disagreed with the policy of allowing students to participate in extracurricular activities if they were attending classes solely online.
“No one likes sports more than I do. However, I’ve seen so many rules and regulations during this COVID thing that don’t make any sense. For one, some areas, you can do it at a bar, but you can’t do it at a church. Stupid,” he said. “Some areas, not here, but it happened to me, I have some condos in Florida and I couldn’t rent one for months, but you could walk across the street and get a motel room.”
Hubbard said he didn’t understand how some students could elect to attend classes online, then go to an extracurricular activity where they could have attended class with them all day. Fellow member James “Jebo” Bullock agreed “100%.”
Board Member Alan Gremminger observed the students were probably limiting their exposure as much as possible, while engaging in some extracurricular activity.
“But they’re limited by less exposure to hundreds of kids at school,” he said. “What if you have a situation where, both parents have to work, and the older sibling is being asked to stay with the younger sibling and help them with school work, too. That’s not a choice the older sibling made, it’s unfair to penalize them. There’s a lot of things that go into this.”
The board observed that athletic scholarships might also be at stake.
Of all the athletes, cheerleaders and dancers, only nine students have elected to attend online, said Associate Superintendent Katie Bockman. In the district, almost 300 middle and high school students are taking virtual classes.
Board member Julie Pratte asked if the nine students in the athletic program had underlying health conditions that prevented them from attending class in person. The administration indicated they couldn’t share that information.
Board member David Bahr observed that it sounded as though the district was entering the school year in the Yellow Phase of the re-opening guidelines, but extracurriculars were in the Green Phase.
Mills said MSHSAA guidelines are very fluid, “they’re changing like crazy. Around 80% of every phone call text or email I get, is about COVID, whether it’s concerning our school or another school.”
To that end, Mills said, he would like to limit crowds at sporting events by allowing four tickets per athlete, cheerleader, Raiderette or band member to give to family members and friends. He said there will still be a crowd, but it will be limited, estimating the crowd count would go from about 3,000 for a well-attended game, to about 1,200. He said he plans to ask coaches how many players might be standing on the sidelines, and then give two to four tickets for each of the visiting players.
Mills said he’d handed out about 500 masks in the previous two days.
“At first, we said, if they don’t have to wear them in school, they don’t have to wear them on the sidelines,” he said. “MSHSAA has changed that. Now we have to wear them on the sidelines.”
And, it’s not just their own students they’re worried about, Mills said. Opposing team players might test positive for COVID, in which case, Raider players might have to quarantine which could lead to forfeitures.
“It’s going to be a wild ride,” he said.
On Monday, the athletic page on North County’s website shared rules for the upcoming season.
“Due to the Covid pandemic, the North County administration team has decided to limit spectators in the following sports at North County home events: HS (Varsity Football, HS Volleyball and MS Volleyball. Each participant for North County and the opposition will receive four tickets to the contest. This includes: North County and opposition athletes and cheerleaders, as well as North County Band and Raiderettes.”
The rules for all spectators require:
- Tickets for admission to the stadium or gym, although children 4 and under may enter without a ticket.
- Masks are highly recommended to be worn by all spectators.
- Families should sit together and strive to socially distance 6 feet from other families and visitors.
- The game (at this time) will be live streamed for those unable to attend.
In other board news, representatives of Interior Design Studio, the entity overseeing upgrades made possible through the successful no-tax-increase bond issue, presented the first phase of capital improvements.
The representatives received feedback on $1.28 million for secured vestibules at North County Primary, Parkside Elementary, Intermediate, Middle and High schools, as well as UniTec. Roof repair at UniTec and the Primary, Middle and High schools will cost $1.78 million. HVAC replacements and upgrades will be made to Parkside Elementary, Intermediate, Middle and High schools for a cool $5.3 million.
Music rooms and auditorium renovations and upgrades were also part the bond issue capital improvements, to the tune of $2.65 million for the Middle School’s lobby and auditorium renovation, and the high school’s sound system upgrade and acoustical treatment. ADA improvements worth $454,000 is intended for Parkside, Intermediate and Middle schools. Kitchen equipment will be replaced in Primary, Parkside, Intermediate and High schools for $388,000. New equipment is destined for playgrounds at Primary, Parkside and Intermediate schools for $1.5 million. The base of the track at the high school is going to be replaced for $602,000.
To the extent the funding allows, other projects to be tackled include the installation of LED lighting at all schools, acoustical treatment in commons areas at all five schools, fixing various issues with the Intermediate School basement, adding to and further securing the high school vestibule and adding a restroom to the 800-block hallway at the high school. All of the miscellaneous projects add up to $6.57 million.
In terms of a timetable for the magnitude of the collective projects, the design phase will ensue until Thanksgiving, construction documents will be pulled together until March, and bidding is estimated to take place from the beginning of March until early April, with hopes construction can take place over spring and summer 2021. There was discussion about certain incidents that could set back the schedules — coronavirus shutdowns, contractor availability, a more protracted school year.
Brockmiller Construction will serve as the liaison for the projects.
The board also approved adopting Missouri School Board Association policies and operations, and approved the property tax rate, which is $4.4258 per $100 assessed valuation for the total tax levy. Superintendent Dr. Jeff Levy said he heard there was a concern that assessed valuation would climb significantly, but he said while the rate increased somewhat, it was nominal.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.
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