Waitsburg School Board monthly update
December 24, 2020
WAITSBURG—The Waitsburg School Board met on December 17, 2020, for a regularly scheduled meeting.
Chairman Ross Hamann announced that he would not be running for another term after 18 years of serving on the board. He stated that he is looking forward to spending time with his family, especially his grandkids, and that being on the board for nearly 20 years has been a great joy. The board elected Pam Chapman as the new Board Chair.
Secondary school Principal Stephanie Wooderchak reported appreciatively that board member Pam Chapman visited the high school and toured the building. She extended the invitation to all of the board members to tour the school at their convenience.
Wooderchak reported that she attended a Character Strong administrators conference via Zoom. The Character Strong curriculum provides students with the social-emotional learning (SEL) element of the district’s curriculum. There was an emphasis on SEL by Governor Inslee and state education leaders implemented earlier this year.
A ‘huge thank you’ to Mrs. Abel and the Waitsburg FFA for continuing on the Festival of Trees on Main Street in Waitsburg. Voting was virtual this year.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) testing has been rescheduled to January 19 and January 21. The testing will span over two days to accommodate the “A” and “B” groups of students. The ASVAB is now an acceptable form of state-testing standards for graduation requirements.
Associated Student Body (ASB) officers from both Dayton and Waitsburg schools have discussed the DW Athletics mascot and will be meeting with artists from Dayton and Waitsburg for mascot mockups. At the time of this meeting, the students had narrowed their choices down to the DW Wolfpack, DW Thrashers, and the DW Kings. Once the mockups have been completed, the final stage of voting will be scheduled. The next meeting concerning the mascot will be on January 7, and Wooderchak said the final vote could be as early as February.
Superintendent Pickel and Wooderchak gave an update on athletics. While there has not been much movement regarding Washington State school athletics, Wooderchak said that there are currently four potential schedules being proposed by the Eastern Washington Athletics Conference, but they are not willing to commit to a schedule at this time. Officials are concerned about recent holiday-related case spikes. One proposed schedule has low-risk sports starting as early as February.
Superintendent Pickel reported that the elementary students were finishing the second round of diagnostic testing. The testing measures a student’s baseline in reading and math to identify strengths and weaknesses. Diagnostics tests are given three times a year to measure learning growth.
The District’s current student management system, Skyward, will be inaccessible between Dec. 18 to Jan. 6 as the school transitions to a new program, Qmulative. The staff, students, and parents will not be able to access grades or other correspondence during this period. Notice of the system’s shutdown and transfer has been sent to families.
An invitation to visit the elementary school when board members are available was extended, following the invitation to visit the secondary schools.
A conference was recently held to discuss SB 5395, the sexual education bill passed in November. The bill went into effect December 3, 2020, and requires various levels of medically and scientifically accurate sexual education to be taught at age-appropriate levels. The Superintendent is looking to form a board after the second semester, consisting of parents and staff to explore curriculums. Kindergarten through third-grade students will receive social-emotional learning. No sexual health is required for this age group.
The school district is exploring options to sell two properties the district owns on Coppei Avenue. Both parcels are bare lots with no structures. Superintendent Pickel has been working with a Spokane area law firm, to understand the district’s sales options.
Superintendent Pickel said they are hopeful for an A/B group return for middle and high school students after winter break, though there are concerns about possible holiday-related spikes in COVID-19 cases. He noted that the school has a solid supply of PPE, and felt the staff would be safe. He urged those at the meeting to remind friends and family to follow guidelines closely to help prevent another outbreak.
A meeting was held with administrative staff regarding social media communications. The school is on Facebook and Instagram, accessible by following @waitsburgsd. An Educational Services District (ESD) 123 official said that ‘If you want to reach the students, use Instagram. If you want to reach the parents, use Facebook.’ Superintendent Pickel said he is looking forward to better utilizing social media platforms to communicate with parents, students and stakeholders.
The board reviewed two policies for the second reading, a social media policy and an excused and unexcused absences policies. The board approved the social media policy. They tabled the excused and unexcused policy until a later date so the board could review new language regarding COVID-19 and illness-related absences.
The school offered a permanent contract to Brian Seagraves, who was hired earlier this year as a temporary maintenance employee. The board approved the contract offer and adjourned the meeting.