Much of what Wrangell’s school year will look like is still up in the air, but one thing is for sure: masks will be required at all times on school property.
Wrangell School Board President Aaron Angerman says the district is trying to reopen safely and accommodate as many students at once as it can: “I think it’s important that we err on the side of caution when it comes to preventable issues. That means making sure as many people [as possible] have masks on at all times in our schools.”
The mask mandate is effective immediately on all school property, including school vehicles, after the motion was passed unanimously by the school board on Monday.
Other parts of the Wrangell school district’s reopening plans are less solid. The pandemic has caused shipping issues for the Apple iPads, accessories, and Chromebooks that the district ordered for distance learning sessions.
It’s also had an impact on staffing. Proposed positions for cleaning and health aides remain unfilled, and more than 10 substitute teaching positions and other aide positions are vacant. One challenge, Superintendent Debbe Lancaster told the school board, is that the positions aren’t funded into the next calendar year, making them less attractive for people looking for long-term employment.
Executive assistant Kim Powell says there are 13 positions and so far only three applicants.
“It’s not going well at all,” Powell related during the meeting. “We have beat the bushes looking for people who want to work for us. I even did a little bit of a personal cost study to see, like, are we paying enough, to see what it is like downtown. You can actually make more as a paraprofessional working here part time than you could at some of our other locations downtown working full time.”
She added that she’s talked to private business owners who say they’re also having trouble filling openings.
Superintendent Debbe Lancaster says she’s hearing that some people aren’t applying or have chosen not to come back for the fall semester because of the health risks.
“They don’t feel as comfortable being around a large gathering like a school presents,” Lancaster explained.
The Wrangell School Board will decide whether to open schools under a medium or high risk scenario on August 24. Under the medium-risk plan–in other words if the community has low to medium transmission of COVID-19–school would be mostly in-person, with possibilities for synchronous online learning, and half-days on Fridays to prep for online instruction.
But under a high risk plan–if there is widespread community transmission, or if there is a staffing shortage–school buildings will be closed and instruction will be offered entirely online.
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