R-IV Updates Safe Return Plan, Implements Daily Mental Health Surveys

The R-IV Willow Springs School Board updated the District’s Safe Return Plan during the regular January meeting. 
School nurse Michelle Ferguson gave an update on positive cases and the current number of students excluded from school. At the time of the meeting, there were 4 positives, and 24 students excluded. 
Most of the changes to the plan revolved around editing it to accord with updated CDC regulations that reduce the period of time students should be excluded from school for COVID reasons from 10 days to 5 days, which Superintendent Bill Hall called a “great” development for keeping kids in schools. 
Because of this shortened exclusion period, in conjunction with the statewide shortage of COVID-19 tests, the test-to-stay option has been removed from the plan. Revised MHSAA guidelines now match the CDC guidelines, and student athletes can now participate in sports activities when they return to school.
Students who return to school after the shortened period of exclusion will be strongly encouraged to wear a mask at school for five days. It will not be required. 
“The communication from the nurse’s office will be ‘You really should be wearing a mask,’” Hall explained. 
Consent agenda items were passed unanimously, including new hires. The Board approved the following new substitute teachers: Jeff Conger, Leah Watson, Emily Scarbrough, Keyera Cornelison, and Kristie Kessel. They approved the hire of Teddi Collins as a custodian. 
They accepted resignations from paraprofessional Tara Miller and custodian Jamison West. 
Dr. Marty Spence, high school principal, informed the Board of a new program called Rhythm that addresses students’ mental health. For grades seven through twelve, students will log on to a Chromebook and take a short survey that they will answer mostly with emojis. 
Dr. Spence mentioned sample questions, “How are you feeling today?” and “Do you feel ready to learn?” “Everything okay at home?”
The results of these surveys will be sent directly to teachers, who will be able to have a snapshot of their students’ mental state while they take attendance.
This program was developed for use at the high school by Andrew Coursen with input from School Resource Officer Glen Moore. The program is set to launch in February.
Under action items, a motion made by Dean Aye and seconded by Adam Webb approved a capital facilities finance resolution which paves the way to secure funding from LJ Hart & Company for the completion of the middle school HVAC replacement project. The motion carried 6-0. School Board President Tony Friga was not present to vote. 
The Board set the date for a special meeting to continue the selection process of a new superintendent to take place January 17.
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