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Status quo for spectators; contract approved for HS addition

Highlights from CCA’s December school board meeting

OXFORD– The School Board of Directors for the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District met in regular session on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at the district’s administrative offices near Oxford.
Among the topics of discussion was approving a winter sports and extracurricular activities spectator policy, one which has been modified throughout the 2020-2021 school year as requirements and guidance from the state of Iowa changed. With Gov. Kim Reynolds’ easing of COVID-19 mitigation restrictions, the CCA board approved two spectator tickets per coach, and two tickets for any student (athlete, cheerleader, dance team, pep band as examples) participating in an event.
The governor’s disaster proclamation earlier in the day approved “households” attending events, however Superintendent Tim Kuehl told the board he would prefer to keep the spectator policy as-is, “Because it can get really messy in a hurry.”
The policy will be reviewed again in January, and likely every month thereafter.
Kuehl provided a Return to Learn update with questions raised by board members regarding the academic performance of the students, particularly those going all virtual, and high school students (who have a mix of onsite education and at-home online learning). Kuehl said he had little in the way of performance metrics to present other than a couple of standardized assessments.
“We said we didn’t want to lower our standards, but consistently my-slash-our (administration team) message has been, ‘Take care of kids first. Do your best with the academics, but take care of kids first,’” Kuehl said. The emphasis this school year has not been on achieving at grade level or showing marked growth, he said. “We want them to do well, obviously, but we really tried to identify the top priority as that social-emotional piece, especially in this traumatic time for kids and families.”
The high school has reduced some elective requirements to enable students to spend more time on core subject matter, Associate Supt. and Secondary Curriculum Director Matt Leeman said. High School Principal Mark Moody added in talking with some of his teachers, “All things considered, they were very happy (given the current situation) with the kids’ progress, and how they will finish grade-wise, from past semesters. They’re not ready to jump off the bridge saying what a disaster this semester was.”
However, Moody noted they have had to come to grips with the realization that not all high school students are masters at time management. Board member Nikki Knapp asked Moody if students were receiving the same as, or more homework, than in previous years (to do during their “asynchronous,” or off-campus learning time). Knapp said at least one parent had reached out to her concerned with how much more homework their student was having to do on a consistent basis.
“We have tried to stress learning over content,” Moody said. “We’re not going to get to the same place we were last year (at the end of the semester). What we’re finding out is kids are not as equipped as we would like them to be to manage their time.” Moody said there appears to be a “disconnect” between what students are telling their parents (about their homework load) and what is actually being asked of them by their teachers. “The truth is probably somewhere in the middle,” Moody said, “It always is, but that’s been a concern. It’s easy to kick the can down the road (and put off doing homework). He also said it is a balancing act between keeping standards and expectations high, without unduly burdening the students with homework.
The board also approved continuing the district’s 14-day quarantine policy for COVID-positive cases. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently loosened its quarantine guidelines to seven or 10 days based on negative tests, and/or hardships due to quarantining. However, Kuehl pointed out for a kindergarten-through-eighth grade class, “It would be a logistical nightmare to attempt to have some kids coming back at day seven, some coming back at day 10, some at day 14. It would be a management nightmare for the teacher in the class as well as for our folks who have to determine and manage all of the ‘hardship’ things, did they get a negative test, and when was the exposure.” Kuehl said the district had three students test positive on their 14th day of quarantine. “We would prefer to stay cautious,” he said.
“What we have is working,” said board member Bob Broghammer. “Let’s stay the course.”
The board approved a contract with McComas-Lacina Construction (MLC) of Iowa City for an addition to the high school in Tiffin. MLC was the lowest bidder for the two-story, 9,200 square foot addition at the northeast corner of the high school site.
The project will add 12 new classrooms including one science room, and an agricultural classroom. In addition, support space for staff will be provided, and an existing courtyard between the current two north side wings will be enclosed and converted into a commons area for students. The approximately 3,000 square-foot space will also be able to be utilized by groups or for project-based learning. The school was expanded in 2016 with 12 classrooms, which increased the student capacity to a maximum of 1,080. The new addition is expected to raise the capacity to 1,400.
Construction is scheduled to begin on or around April 5, 2021, with substantial completion required by July 18, 2022, and final completion required by Aug. 17, 2022.
This is the final project of the $36 million bond issue voters approved in September of 2017. Previous projects included construction of Tiffin Elementary, improvements to Amana Elementary and North Bend Elementary, improved access to the middle school and additional parking at the high school, and the new gym and renovated kitchen for Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford.
Due to the ongoing pandemic board meetings are not open to the public, but comments may still be provided to the board through the district’s website. Meetings are available for viewing on the district’s YouTube channel.