LEXINGTON — With several confirmed cases of COVID-19, coronavirus, in Nebraska, public schools are making their own preparations to deal with the ongoing situation. Lexington Public Schools is following the advice of Two Rivers Public Health Department, as well as being ready to lean on their existing policies.
Superintendent John Hakonson told the Lexington School Board on Tuesday evening a committee of administrators and nurses participated in a COVID-19 presentation, put on by Two Rivers on Feb. 28.
Two Rivers said they would provide the latest updates and advice during another meeting with area school superintendents on Wednesday, May 18.
Hakonson said LPS already has policies in place regarding communicable diseases, emergency exclusion and emergency closure which were shared with LPS committee members.
The district’s website displays an attached letter, a COVID-19 fact sheet and "stop the spread advice," Hakonson said. Schools have also circulated handwashing videos for teachers to show to the students.
The school has also begun a confidential list of higher risk students who have serious medical conditions, said Hakonson.
ServiceMaster, who cleans the Lexington schools, has begun using a cleaning solution which kills the flu virus and is regularly wiping down high contact areas.
Hakonson added the Nebraska Commissioner of Education was prepared to relax the required number of hours students needed to attend if school closures became a serious issue. A similar reprieve was granted last year, when multiple schools were shut down due to the historic flooding in the state.
Moving on to school matters, the board approved the purchase of a new wireless microphone system for the Lexington Middle School auditorium.
The district is required to replace the current wireless microphone system by June 2020, because the frequency they transmit is no longer allowed by the Federal Communications Commission, Hakonson said. Districts which do not replace their systems by the deadline will be subject to a fine from the FCC.
Yanda’s Music offered to replace the system with a new one at the cost of $12,550. Music teachers Chad Scharff and Spencer Hansen reviewed the proposal and the system and gave their approval.
The activities committee met on Feb. 19 and discussed the possibility of adding soccer as a sport available to middle school students in the spring, Hakonson said. At the moment the middle school track teams are "overloaded," said Hakonson and offering soccer would help alleviate this, as well as play to Lexington’s strengths.
In finance matters, the board approved an agreement with the Lexington Education Association to change pay days and pay periods.
The change resulted from employee concerns over the Nov. 25 to Dec.25 paydays surrounding the holidays. Teachers and staff would be paid on Christmas Day, creating a financial strain during the holiday season, Hakonson said.
The pay day will be moved up from the 25th of a month, to the 20th which will begin this June. The pay period was also shifted up a week.
While this was approved for the 2020-2022 school year, the board needed a side agreement with the LEA to address the current school year.
The board also approved the corrected version of the 2020-2022 negotiated agreement between the board and the LEA. The wrong version had inadvertently been attached in the agenda of the February meeting the board memorialized the corrected version had been approved.
The board also improved a total package increase for classified, administrative and support staff for the 2020-2021 school year.
The board finance committee recommended a three percent increase for classified and support staff and a 2.81 percent increase for administrators, directors and coordinators. The board approved the increase.
Teachers were approved earlier for a 2.81 percent total package increase.
During an executive session meeting, the board also recommended the same 2.81 percent package increase for Superintendent Hakonson, but a formal vote was not taken during the meeting, the increase will be approved during the next school board meeting in April.
The board also approved the resignations of several teachers which included, Jennifer Evans, LHS math teacher; Kirstie Koch, school psychologist; Ross Koch, 8th grade English teacher; Christa Pierce, Sandoz 3rd grade teacher and Maurita Runkel, Pershing EL teacher.
The following hirings were approved, Brenda Brayton, Pershing music teacher, Abigail Brown, LMS social studies teacher; Kellie Cetak, Pershing Elementary principal; Jennifer Cunningham, Pershing 5th grade teacher, Odwuar Quinonez, Pershing 4th grade teacher. A revised contract was also approved for Sara Oberg a speech pathologist.
During the principal reports, Barry McFarland and Scott West said English Language Proficiency, ELPA, exams were taken by numerous students and middle school 8th graders are preparing to take the Measures of Academic Progress test.
Hakonson congratulated state wrestling champion Brady Fago and all of his hard work and dedication.
The board was informed Central Community College recently reduced their dual credit costs from $105 to $15 per credit hour, which will be a major benefit for Lexington students, Hakonson said. A handful of Lexington High School teachers with masters degrees have been identified who could teach the additional dual credit courses.
Maria Vargas was recently hired as the new food service director and she will job shadow Kerry Teetor from March 9 to May 31 and then formally take over on June 1. Hakonson said Vargas is a Lexington graduat and has been the dietary manager at Lexington Regional Health Center for the last seven years and her own children are enrolled in LPS.