Wautoma School Board discusses COVID-19 trends


The Wautoma Area School District held their monthly board meeting on Nov. 9 where they discussed the COVID-19 trends they have been seeing since they switched over to hybrid learning.

The board discussed the trends the district has been seeing in terms of quarantined staff and students. Each week the schools have been documenting how many students and staff members have been required to quarantine at home and each Monday a report is made. At the beginning of the school year during the week of Sept. 28 there were 106 students and eight staff quarantined after being identified as a close contact. The next week that number greatly increased to 218 students and 15 staff having to be quarantined.

Once the numbers increased the district determined that this was not sustainable keeping the students in school full time. Switching to the hybrid model proved to be beneficial, as the numbers have gone down. The latest report on Nov. 9 saw 25 students and seven staff members having to be kept at home. With less students in the building more physical distancing has been implemented, bringing close contact numbers down. District Administrator Tom Rheinheimer also gave parents credit, as they have helped reduce the amount of possibly sick children going to school. When a parent is feeling ill, they have made an effort to have their child stay home, Rheinheimer reported.

Rheinheimer also reported that since the beginning of the school year to Nov. 9, there has been 906 quarantine incidents throughout the district. This counts anytime anyone has been sent home throughout the district, including those being sent home twice.

So far, the school has had 37 students and 24 staff members test positive for COVID. This means the district has 61 cases in a little over two months of school. That is 10 percent of staff and only 2.5 percent of students.

In-person learning is essential in the lives of students. The district is looking to send students back with a possible date target date of Dec. 7 after a discussion with the school nurse. This date is not official, but a plan can start to form as to what in-person learning may look like in the near future. The district will continue to study the trends, especially after the Thanksgiving holiday, to see where they stand.

Rheinheimer also presented the board with information on the camera systems used in school buses. The two companies that were discussed were Gatekeeper, the system Wautoma currently uses, and Pro-Vision.

Safety of students is the top priority and dual cameras are a great way to monitor drivers that don’t stop for school buses. Dual cameras are installed by the stop arm of the bus and can capture license plates of vehicles that do not stop for the bus. The board watched example videos of the system they currently have where only the front plate was captured. Dual cameras can help ensure that those who don’t stop are able to be reported to law enforcement by also capturing the back plate, which is usually more visible.

Interior cameras are also important for the school bus and allows students and the bus driver to be monitored. The interior cameras would be installed on the sides of the bus as opposed to just the front and the back. The three HD cameras would allow for students and the bus driver to be visible as well as the middle and back of the bus. This also helps protect the bus driver who may be accused of something to prove exactly what really happened. The placement of the camera is also useful to monitor students without the seats being in the way, which allows administrators to zoom in to see what is happening inside the actual seats.

Gatekeeper is the system Wautoma’s transportation department is currently using. The school is looking into expanding on their camera system in order to help thoroughly ensure student and driver safety. Pro-Vision is the other system the board will be looking into, as it is prevalent in Wisconsin. Pro-Vision will have the capability to connect to the cloud which would make it easier to access footage when there is a behavior issue on the bus. The board will study the two quotes from the systems before they decide which to go with.

During the District Administrator report Tom Rheinheimer added that although the district cannot hold their annual Veteran’s Day ceremony at the schools they would still be helping with technology at the ceremony in the WWII building. Katie Schaefer has helped set up a video presentation for the Veteran’s that was presented on Nov. 11.

Student Council presented to the board their new officers, including Hattie Bray, President, Abby Peterman, Vice President; Chase Mastricola, Secretary; Andrew Momsen, Treasurer; and Anna Peterson, Junior School Board Representative.

The board went on to approve the retirement of Jean Redman-Zank, Redgranite Cook II; the hiring of Trevor Hoth, Riverview Steering Team MAPES Representative; and Gavino Morales, Boys Basketball, JV Coach; and the second considerations for Policy 5200 – Attendance Revisions; Policy 8440.01 – Personal Protective Equipment During Pandemic/Epidemic Events; Policy 5430 – Class Rank Revisions; and Policy 5451.01 – Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship Revisions.