Monday night, the Chadron Public Schools Board of Education — with board member Tye Pourier among those in attendance via videoconference — approved motion regarding how the district will act in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first motion approved the board to authorize the superintendent or designee to grant a paid leave of absence for up to 14 days with full current wages and benefits to exempt and non-exempt employees experiencing any of the following conditions or circumstances related to COVID-19:
•Having travelled from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran in the past 14 days, or close contact with someone who’s been in those countries
•Being asked to self-quarantine by any healthcare provider or public official
•Being diagnosed with or having had contact anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19
•Exhibiting, presently, the symptoms of an infectious respiratory illness, which include fever, cough, or shortness of breath and/or
•Having to leave job duties to take care of a family member who has COVID-19
These conditions are all subject to any required adjustment thereto required to comply with any state or federal law now existing or subsequently enacted.
Board member Maddie Nitsch questioned whether documentation is required from a doctor. Superintendent Dr. Caroline Winchester noted the district is not requiring it, and is working with Panhandle Public Health District for guidelines. She further pointed out that this leave is paid administrative leave, and would not use employees’ sick leave.
Nitsch emphasized there are other illnesses with symptoms similar to COVID-19. Dr. Winchester said what she’s hearing from PPHD is to err on the side of caution, and anyone with the symptoms should stay home. The superintendent further emphasized the seriousness of the situation and the moral obligation to protect the community and the health system.
There was also concern raised by board member Boone Huffman that this policy is open-ended, and it was later modified that it would last only through the end of the current school year.
The board also approved a motion that allows the superintendent or designee to take all necessary action to work with state and local health department officials for advice and direction on functions that may involve large gatherings of people.
The superintendent or designee is also authorized, following board action, to take all necessary action to prepare for the board to declare the COVID-19 virus situation as an “emergency” under the Nebraska Emergency Management Act.
Further, it was resolved that Dr. Winchester or her designee can close or limit access to buildings, schools or the district and implement a pandemic response plan, as needed or deemed appropriate. Under this resolution, programs such as distance learning and work from home procedures will be implemented as appropriate. This authority is granted until the emergency has been dealt with to the conditions no longer exist, or the board ends the resolution.
In other action, the board approved the resignation of Elementary/Middle School Music Teacher Lori Jensen, and contacts for High School Math Teacher Shauna Golembiewski and High School Language Arts Teacher Mary Anne Smith.
Also at the meeting, Dr. Winchester expressed appreciation to district staff in making the remote learning possible and getting learning packets to students, as well as food service and the work they’ve put in for the meal pickups done on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Board President Tom Menke said giving the authority to act quickly and concisely is important, in order to have they knowledge they need.
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