By Crystal Hayduk
The Chelsea School District (CSD) Board of Education practiced social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic by conducting its March 23 meeting virtually through Zoom, an online remote conferencing service.
Board President Shawn Quilter said that following Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-15, which provided “temporary authorization of remote participation in public meetings,” the district received advice from both MASB (Michigan Association of School Boards) and Thrun Law, the district’s legal counsel, about how to run the meeting virtually.
Under the new guidance, board members vote by individual roll call instead of by raising hands.
“We continue to follow all of the notification and cancellation rules regarding open meetings,” said Quilter. “There are some board matters that need to continue, so we are doing what the executive orders and existing laws allow us to do, to keep that business moving forward, such as contracts for capital improvements from our 2019 bond.”
Superintendent of Schools Julie Helber said that in response to the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, all district employees will be working from home and the buildings will be closed effective March 24. The only exceptions will be to provide food for Meals on Wheels and families in need (utilizing a minimum number of volunteers) and for district operations to monitor the buildings.
The district is providing food for families in need. Two curbside meal distributions are currently scheduled, from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, March 27 and Monday, April 6 at Chelsea High School. Directional signs will be posted.
District administrators have been researching options to provide equitable access to instruction for all students online or virtually. With help from the Washtenaw County Broadband Task Force, many areas throughout the district with limited or no access to broadband services have been identified. The district has ordered several Verizon hotspots to be placed in remote areas to improve access; however, the hotspots have not been delivered yet.
CSD’s tech and operations departments placed wireless access points outside the school buildings to allow students and staff to drive up to access the network. (See photo for map of access points.)
Helber said that teachers are planning for extended learning opportunities for students, with a goal of releasing an equitable and accessible plan on April 6. In the meantime, family resources are regularly being added to https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/updates/family-resources.
In a vote of 6-0 (Jason Eyster was absent), the board approved the bid by Phoenix Contractors, Inc. to complete the 500 Building renovation project in the amount of $784,997.
In response to board member Kristin van Reesema’s inquiry regarding construction during the pandemic, Helber said that Tim Courtright, director of operations, is planning to have mechanisms in place to help keep workers healthy.
The first scheduled work day for the 500 Building project is April 16, but the district is aware that potential problems with the supply of needed materials may result in delays.
In other board news:
The district will contact elementary families regarding iPad distribution plans.
The following motion was made by van Reesema and carried: “In support of online and virtual learning experiences due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a motion for Shawn Quilter, President of the Chelsea School Board on behalf of the Board, to sign the letter to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to expand funding for home internet access through the e-rate program; signature no later than March 24.”
Currently, the FCC’s e-rate program assists schools and libraries to obtain affordable broadband services. The letter urges the FCC to expand the program to extend the funding to home internet access so that students can continue to learn online during school closures.
In an email following the virtual board meeting, Quilter wrote, “Dr. Helber, her administrative staff, teachers and other staff are doing an admirable job continuing the work of CSD under fluid and evolving circumstances.”
Visit the CSD website at https://www.chelsea.k12.mi.us/updates for the most up-to-date information on district-related COVID-19 response.
The next board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on April 13. Location (in-person or virtual) to be determined at a later date.
Due to Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 (Stay Home, Stay Safe), Chelsea School District will remain closed at least until April 13. (Link here.)