Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Back to School Reopening Plan

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

At the August 10, 2020 the Colstrip Board of Trustees approve the following reopening plan: Colstrip Public Schools Reopening Plan for 2020-2021.  The components of this plan will remain flexible and adaptable to the potential changes in the phases and levels of concern for individual and public health. Therefore, this document will be dynamic and updated regularly as new information becomes available and/ or additional requirements are requested of the School District.

 

PLAN DEVELOPMENT

COVID-19 continues to affect nearly every aspect of how our families, businesses, and schools go about their daily work. Colstrip Public School District has been working on gathering the needed supplies and equipment to develop a plan for how our schools can provide a safe and secure setting for students to learn since last spring. The enclosed plan builds upon all that we learned last spring when, with your help, our teachers and students quickly moved to remote instruction.

The School Board of Trustees has diligently developed Emergency Policies that protect our students, staff, community and pecuniary interests meeting state mandates for extended funding and support. These 1900 Policies are:

Emergency School District Policies

·       Policy 1900 Emergency Policy Framework

·       Policy 1901 School District Policy and Procedures

·       Policy 1903 School District Meetings and Gatherings

·       Policy 1905 Student, Staff and Community Health and Safety

·       Policy 1906 Student Instruction

·       Policy 1907 School District Declaration of Emergency

Colstrip Public School District serves students with transparency and accountability to ensure as many people as possible have a voice in the school's operations. We sent out a Reopening School Survey to Parents and Staff alike on July 27, 2020. 

There were 360 invitations sent out to parents/guardians of our school district. The email addresses were generated from District Infinite Campus records. Of the 360 invitations there were 261 responses. There were 11 questions. Below are the specific COVID-19 responses:

  • How concerned are you with COVID-19 in our community? (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 = not concerned, 10 = very concerned).
    •  Average response was 5.25. The Task Force committee noted that most of the responses were polarized; with either a very low concern or very high. 
  • Assuming there is no vaccine available in the fall, but schools reopen following the guidance of the CDC, Office of Public Instruction and the Rosebud County Health Department, how would you prefer students to participate?
    •  Top three responses
      • 41% School everyday
      • 30% Hybrid or blended program (remote delivery and at school). Being in school part-time (2-3 days per week) with blended on-line learning.
      • 13% 100% Remote learning program
  • What factors would help you feel more comfortable in allowing your child to return to on-site learning? 
    • Top responses
      • 77% Classrooms and other gathering places cleaned and sanitized daily.
      • 71% Sanitizing supplies, including hand sanitizers readily available.
      • 52% Mandatory symptom checks required for every student before entering the building.
      • 51% Mandatory symptom checks of employees required before entering their classroom/workplace.
      • 46% Restricting visitors and volunteers from entering the schools during the instructional day.
  • What are your primary concerns about coming back to your school?
    • Top responses
      • 56% Classrooms and other student gathering places not properly disinfected.
      • 40% Student/Staff underlying health concerns.
      • 35% Public health regulations not being followed.
      • 33% Availability of PPE or personal protective equipment (mask, shields and disinfectant cleaner).

There were 115 invitations sent out to all employees of our school district. Of the 115 invitations there were 84 responses. There were 16 questions. Below are the specific COVID-19 responses were:

  • If we are able to have schools open in the fall, do you intend to come back to work?
    • Responses
      • 85% Yes
      • 13% Uncertain
      • 2% I will likely request other accommodations for health reasons
  • How concerned are you with COVID-19 in our community? (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 = not concerned, 10 = very concerned).
    •  Average response was 4.9
  • Assuming there is no vaccine available in the fall, but schools reopen following the guidance of the CDC, Office of Public Instruction and the Rosebud County Health Department, how would you prefer students to participate?
    •  Top three responses
      • 56% School everyday
      • 14% Hybrid or blended program (remote delivery and at school). Being in school part-time (2-3 days per week) with blended on-line learning.
      • 10% Partial school day to allow for fewer students in the classroom
  • What factors would help you feel more comfortable? 
    • Top responses
      • 85% Sanitizing supplies, including hand sanitizers readily available.
      • 82% Classrooms and other gathering places cleaned and sanitized daily.
      • 57% Mandatory symptom checks required for every student before entering the building.
      • 55% Restricting visitors and volunteers from entering the schools during the instructional day.
      • 51% Mandatory symptom checks of employees required before entering their classroom/workplace.
  • What are your primary concerns about coming back to your school?
    • Top responses
      • 68% Classrooms and other student gathering places not properly disinfected.
      • 44% Public health regulations not being followed.
      • 42% Student/Staff underlying health concerns.
      • 40% Student Transportation (e.g. school bus, etc.)
      • 38% Availability of PPE or personal protective equipment (mask, shields and disinfectant cleaner).

A COVID-19 Task Force made up of 28 individuals: board members, administrators, teachers, staff members, food service, technology, custodians, counselors and out of district services, met on August 3rd and 4th.  They reviewed the survey results to develop a plan for reopening schools. The plan takes into account the top responses by both staff and parents/guardians. 

This dialogue between school leaders and citizens has helped make sure our students learn in a manner that reflects the circumstances in our community.  Our goal to resume instruction and operations at our schools relies on the following priorities: a healthy and safe setting for students, staff, and the community; helpful support of teachers and staff; and responsible financial and operational procedures. We intend to meet this goal by upholding these priorities.

This plan is the work of the board of trustees, administrative team, employees, parents, students, state and local health officials all collaborating to identify how instruction will be delivered to students; how gatherings and events will take place on school property if and when appropriate; how the health and safety of staff and students will be protected and preserved while schools are open; and how financial and operational functions of the school district will continue during this public health emergency. School leaders and the COVID-19 Task Force have considered available options and perspectives to make decisions that reflect the circumstances in our community.

 

By listening to these voices, we have implemented measures throughout the District to promote a safe and healthy setting for learning, teaching, and working. Our District's plan relies on the practical application of scientific information to transform instruction, cleaning and disinfecting, transportation, food services, and activities. The District has implemented physical distancing by reconfiguring classrooms and gathering spaces, developed school arrival and departure procedures including temperature checks; installed sanitizing stations, hygiene signs, barriers and other measures to assist with individual protection; and purchased material and supplies to implement all aspects of the plan.  Further, the District requires students, staff, and teachers to wear a mask during transportation and while working in close proximity with other individuals and in common areas while passing or gatherings larger than 50. 

 

We are confident these and other proactive measures outlined in the plan will meet our shared goal of returning to face-to-face instruction. While it is not our intention to revert to instruction away from the schools, the School District understands that even with our best prevention efforts, it is possible that there may be an outbreak of this highly contagious virus in our community. To prepare for this possibility, the District has a dynamic remote instruction program and continues to seek ways to improve access to students in the event the schools are required to close for any period of time. This program will also be available to students during a period of instruction in the school if a family needs remote instruction accommodation. If you would like more information about how to request opt-out of on-site instruction, please contact the school office for appropriate forms. 

 

Our School District is innovative, agile, and ready to get back to school. We've worked to think of as many solutions as possible to make sure the students can come back to their classrooms, work with their teachers, and enjoy their friends. If there is something you think we have missed or if you have questions, please let us know by sending me an email to bob.lewandowski@colstrip.k12.mt.us. Our School District remains committed to maintaining timely and relevant communications with staff, families and the community as this new school year begins. With your help, your students' enthusiasm, and our staff’s leadership, we'll meet this challenge and have a successful school year.

 

 

 

OPTION FOR OPTING OUT OF ONSITE INSTRUCTION

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Policy 1908 Family Engagement indicates that students of families opting out of onsite instruction at the school facility for the first semester of 2020-2021 school fiscal year shall receive offsite, online instruction, or any combination of the foregoing at the discretion of the School District in accordance with District Policy 1906. School District staff shall arrange for any combination of physical instructional packets, virtual or electronic based course meetings and assignments, self-directed or parent/guardian-assisted learning opportunities, and other educational efforts available to staff and students that can be relied upon for grade or credit in order to satisfy the minimum aggregate number of hours or determination of proficiency for the requesting student. Students determined to be proficient in one or more courses of the district shall be incorporated in the School District’s calculation of ANB, with such ANB fraction to be converted to an hourly equivalent based on the hours of instruction ordinarily provided for the content over which the student has demonstrated proficiency. 



Students of families opting out of onsite delivery shall be treated the same as students instructed at the school facility for purposes of grading, discipline, and other educational rights.

The District asks parents/guardians and students to make “Opt-Out” or “Face-to-Face” instruction decisions by completing the 1908F Opt-Out Form by August 28, 2020 by 4:00 PM so class schedules can be adjusted. “Opt-Out” Forms are available on-line or at each building. They must be signed and submitted to the District Office for processing. You may scan the forms and email them to kris.mcmanus@colstrip.k12.mt.us, or send them to:

§  Colstrip Public Schools

§  P.O. Box 159

§  Colstrip, MT 59323

Materials such as chromebooks, consumables and course guidelines will be made available as soon as possible.  The Curriculum Director and/or Instructional Facilitator(s) will be in touch with you to outline grade and/or course processes, programs and protocols to begin initial instruction. They will also work with you in obtaining needed materials, computer logon, training necessary to complete course/grade work.  Grade and Course instruction will begin after Labor Day or within ten (10) days of your completed application of 1908F Onsite Instruction Opt Out (During this time your student will be matriculated and provided needed start up materials and initial instruction for completing necessary paperwork and log in information for Google Classroom). 



PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR THE  OPT OUT OF ONSITE INSTRUCTION FORM.

 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Back to School: Everything Is Subject to Change

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

With the first day of school a little more than a month and a half away (August 20, 2020) there have been a number of questions concerning what school might look like and how it will accommodate for the impact of COVID-19. The answer is very dynamic and will change and grow as the impact of COVID-19 changes.

Montana is a "local control" state. The best and final public decision are made by the school district administration, local school boards and community stakeholders who know and understand the unique needs of their local community. At this time the District is preparing for multiple scenarios. We are not sure what restrictions may exist come August.

On August 3, 2020 the District will begin to finalize a proposal for the August 10, 2020 Regular Board Meeting. At that time, the District will set forth a process for reopening school. After talking with other superintendents here in the South Eastern part of Montana, they too are hesitant to develop a scenario for school due to the ever changing status of the pandemic. 

As to what the scenarios might look like, Elsie Arntzen, the Montana Superintendent of Instruction, put together several committees to assist in developing K-12 public schools reopening guidelines. They have developed four scenarios.  Four scenarios are included as guidance examples. Following state directives, individual districts in consultation with local health authorities should determine which scenarios best fit their local situations.
  • Scenario 1: Buildings Closed: All students remote learning.
  • Scenario 2: A limited number of students present in school building, with remote learning occurring for students who are off-site
  • Scenario 3: Increased capacity/number of students in the school building, limiting number of activities to allow for continued physical distancing, and continued remote learning for students who are off-site
  • Scenario 4: Near full capacity and full operations, continued vigilance in health and safety best practices, with remote learning for students who are off-site
The details for these scenarios are detailed in OPI's document called: Reopening Montana School Guidance. Here you can find out what schools might look like across Montana depending on the the status of COVID-19 as well as the directives from the Governor and Montana health agencies. You can find out more at the Montana COVID-19 Task Force website

As much as I would like to tell you what school will look like, there is no way to do that at this time; however, given the reopening guidelines provided by the Office of Public Instruction (OPI), it will give you and idea of the considerations that are being made. With that I want to share a disclaimer by the Montana Office of Public Instruction in regards to their published document. I believe it certainly captures the current status of educational planning:
*Disclaimer: Any information appearing in this document regarding COVID-19 is subject to change. This document is a guidance document composed by Montana education stakeholders. The guidance is dynamic and will change and grow as the impact of COVID-19 changes. This document is not a legal document or an exhaustive list of actions that will need to be considered. This document is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as advice, requirements, or mandate. The information, samples, templates, tips, and techniques provided in this document are intended solely as examples of practices, do not impose, or imply legal or regulatory requirements, and may not apply to all situations based upon circumstances. This document does not substitute for any law, or regulations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other public health messages or guidance.

Like always, be safe, be healthy and be kind.

Have a SUPER day!

MAKE DUST COLTS AND FILLIES!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Calendar for 2020-2021 Approved by Board of Trustees

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

I hope this post finds everyone in good health and spirit. I want to share the 2020-2021 Calendar for the next school year that was selected by the Board of Trustees. It was approved at the regular board meeting on April 20, 2020. The CPS Calendar Survey indicated 79% of those surveyed selected this as their calendar choice for 2020-2021 school year. It is a different calendar than we have had in the past. 

I would like to thank all of the Calendar Committee Members for their hard work. This was a group effort that I think resulted in a product that will serve our community and students well.

Below are some of the details in the selection of the 2020-2021 Calendar

The 2020-2021 Calendar Committee first met on February 5, 2020 to develop two calendars that meet the minimum state requirements of 1080 hours of instruction as per Montana Code Annotated 20-1-301. The Committee looked at four different types of calendars overall, but the Committee felt the two calendars presented to the board were the most complete in providing for the overall needs of all stakeholders.  The Calendar Survey opened on April 10, 2020 and closed at noon on April 17, 2020.

The Calendar Committee developed two calendars for consideration and identified them with the following titles: BLACK or BASE CALENDAR and BLUE or PDW DAY CALENDAR
 
Each calendar met the minimum of 1080 hours as per 20-1-301:
  • 20-1-301. School fiscal year. (1) The school fiscal year begins on July 1 and ends on June 30. At least the minimum aggregate hours defined in subsection (2) must be conducted during each school fiscal year, except that 1,050 aggregate hours of pupil instruction for graduating seniors may be sufficient.
         (2) The minimum aggregate hours required by grade are:
         (a) 360 hours for a half-time kindergarten program or 720 hours for a full-time kindergarten program, as provided in 20-7-117;
         (b) 720 hours for grades 1 through 3; and
         (c) 1,080 hours for grades 4 through 12.
         (3) For any elementary or high school district that fails to provide for at least the minimum aggregate hours, as listed in subsections (1) and (2), the superintendent of public instruction shall reduce the direct state aid for the district for that school year by two times an hourly rate, as calculated by the office of public instruction, for the aggregate hours missed.

       
The Board Selected Calendar for 2020-2021 was the PDW DAY CALENDAR for 2020-2021: (Current Thursday Early Outs for Staff Development are moved to Fridays and converted into 8 Staff PDW Fridays throughout the school year)

The Calendar length is 171 student contact days.  School begins on August 20 and ends on May 26. It has (8) Winter Break Days; (3) Spring Break Days. It has (139) Full Days; (24) Part Days which have been moved from Thursdays to Fridays; and (4) Half Days strategically placed to take advantage low attendance. There are (186) Professional Days and (7) Pupil Instructional Related Days and (8) Professional Development Work Days or "PDW" Days for teacher development, work and group planning. This Calendar requires a daily structured recess for the elementary to extend learning time while taking advantage of low attendance numbers on Friday afternoons by scheduling one hour early release for students to attend activities and weekend events without absence. 

The Survey Results Surveys were collected from the following:
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • District Website
WHEREAS: Linked are the disaggregated survey results:

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Thank You for Past Levy Support! Vote "YES" for KIds in 2020!

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

Historically Colstrip votes yes for kids and has passed general fund school levies for more than three decades. The May 5, 2020 U.S. Mail Election Ballots went out in the mail on April 20, 2020.  DUE TO COVID-19, THE PREFERRED METHOD TO RETURN VOTED BALLOTS IS BY U.S. MAIL. However, ballots may be returned physically to the following locations, at the following times: Location Prior to Election Day: Central Administration Office at 216 Olive Drive, Colstrip, MT 59323 Hours: 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM Location on Election Day: Central Administration Office at 216 Olive Drive, Colstrip, MT 59323 Hours: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM.

If you miss this regular registration deadline (30 days prior to the election), you may still register for the election by showing up at the county election office up to and including on election day. Between noon and the close of business on the day before election day, you may complete and submit a voter registration card, but you will need to return to the district voting location on election day to pick up and vote a ballot. The county election office is located at: Rosebud County Courthouse, 1200 Main Street, Forsyth MT 59327.  A late registrant may obtain a ballot on election day at the following location: Central Administration Office, 216 Olive Drive, Colstrip MT 59323
There are two levies to be voted on.
      High School General Fund Levy
      Mill levy proposition to finance the school’s High School General Fund: To determine whether the district shall be authorized to impose an increase in local taxes in the amount of $257,840.95 which is approximately 3.37 mills to meet the normal operational costs of the High School District General Fund for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The levy is ongoing once approved by the voters assuming the district levies that amount at least once in the next five years. Passage of this proposal will increase the taxes on a home with market value of $100,000 by approximately $4.55 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by approximately $9.10.
      Elementary General Fund Levy
      Mill levy proposition to finance the school’s Elementary General Fund: To determine whether the district shall be authorized to impose an increase in local taxes in the amount of $273,584.76 which is approximately 3.58 mills to meet the normal operational costs of the Elementary District General Fund for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The levy is ongoing once approved by the voters assuming the district levies that amount at least once in the next five years. Passage of this proposal will increase the taxes on a home with market value of $100,000 by approximately $4.83 and on a home with a market value of $200,000 by approximately $9.67.
As you may know, it is very important for Colstrip Public Schools to pass the General Fund Levies at both the High School and Elementary School. Your support is critical.
I would like to encourage you to ask questions about the impact of the Levy Funds. I would also encourage you to get out and vote. A vote for the Levy Funds is definitely a vote for the children in which we serve. These Levy Funds are crucial for maintaining salaries, equipment, curriculum, activities and the operational expenses of this district.

This community has taken pride in passing Levy Funds in the years past. This is a community that has traditionally supported its kids. Our teachers and staff members have played a key role in this process. I can't stress enough the importance in passing the Levy Funds.

Point of fact: Colstrip Public School District #19 has passed Levy Funds for 30 years; this level of community support played a instrumental role in the decisions of those that have awarded grants to our School District. This past year alone, the District has been awarded over $1.6 million dollars in competitive grants. Your support for our school levies is critical in so many ways. Get the word out and support our kids and see that these levies get a FOR vote. Thank you in advance for any, and all of your effort in seeing this need through.




Saturday, April 4, 2020

Now For Some Good News: District Awarded $121,273.00 Grant

by Robert "Bob" Lewandowski

There has been a lot that has happened in the past several weeks. It almost seems surreal, but just before the pandemic, on March 12, 2020 the District did get some great news. It was awarded $121,273.00 through a coal grant we submitted to address the water main break. Once again, board members Bruce Brown and Brent Burton along with McKinstry Account Executive, Tyler Bush assisted me as we presented the Colstrip Water-main Grant Proposal to the Montana Coal Board.


If you remember, on December 11, 2019 Colstrip High School had a water main break outside of the facilities between the municipal water vault and the building where the gymnasium and classroom structure meets on the North side of the high school facilities. The break created a significant amount of damage as the amount of water coming out of the identified pipe not only found its way inside the building from on top of the ground, but also came up through the cement floor and walls and exited into classrooms through electrical outlet boxes. (See photos below). Due to the extenuating circumstances the school district was forced to close school for two days until the break could be repaired. When the water main pipe was excavated and the leak identified, there was significant concern that the pipe was compromised enough through corrosion and time that it could certainly break again at another place between the water vault and the building. The damages to the school district were substantial: the loss of two instructional days as well as over $80,000 worth of damage.

Technically speaking, the original cast iron water main pipe corroded due to high alkalinity in the soils and electrolysis.  It is anticipated that the replacement pipe will be CPVC with cast iron fittings.  Sacrificial anodes will be utilized to reduce corrosion at the fittings.  The sizing of these fittings will be determined following the compilation of a geotechnical report identifying the actual composition of the soils.  Approximately 100 lineal feet of pipe will be replaced from the city’s valve box to the connection inside the footprint of the high school.

We hope to get started on the water-main replacement as soon as possible. We are anticipating the funding early next fall.

This was one of two grants submitted to the Coal Board. The second grant was tabled until the June Meeting. The District feels very fortunate to have received this grant as it offsets funding that can be utilized to address other needs. Once again, thank you #MTCOAL and the Montana Coal Board and Department of Commerce.

Once again, stay safe, stay healthy and until we hear different stay home!