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COVID cases disrupt CP

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The extent of the spread of COVID-19 in the Central Plains USD 112 schools was apparent Monday evening during a Zoom meeting of the district’s board of education.

At the meeting, Superintendent Greg Clark, who is in quarantine after testing positive for the virus, said students at Central Plains Elementary School in Holyrood and at Central Plains Junior-Senior High School in Claflin are learning remotely after he learned Saturday that COVID-19 cases had spiked among teachers and students there.

Clark made that decision after the board, in a special meeting Friday night, decided by consensus to have students not in quarantine attend classes in person, based on staff availability and the blessing of administrators.

At Monday’s board meeting, Clark asked each of the building principals to report on the extent of COVID-19 in their schools.

Jane Oeser, CPES principal, said 11 adults from the school have been quarantined, with four testing positive for the virus. More are being tested. Fifteen CPES students are in quarantine, with one student testing positive.

At CPJSHS, principal Toby Holmes said 71 students are in quarantine, with six testing positive. He noted five teachers, three paraprofessionals and two staff members are in quarantine, with four testing positive.

At Wilson School, which is on a hybrid schedule with some students in class at school and other students learning remotely, principal Adam Niedens said five adults at the school (two are staff) are in quarantine after testing positive, and 40 students are in quarantine, with one testing positive.

“Our goal is to try to stop the spread of this,” Clark said. “We want to get our kids back in school.”

Clark said he plans to have students back in class at school after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30). Until then, he advised everyone to remain in quarantine until the suggested time passes, wear face masks, practice good hygiene and socially distance.

“I’d ask the communities to help us out any way they can: he said.

In other business:

Clark noted Ellsworth County commissioners approved a mask mandate Monday. He said Kerianne Ehrlich, supervisor of the county health department told him if the mask mandate were put in place she would look at quarantines on a case-by-case basis as long as both individuals involved — the person with COVID-19 and the person or persons in close contact with that person — were wearing face masks.

“If the board is okay with this, I would like to pursue that: Clark said.

Clark said the measure would not change the remote learning status of the two Central Plains schools on the southern end of the district because so many staff members are out due to COVID-19. It would be useful after students are back in school after Thanksgiving.

Clark said he is meeting Nov. 10 with officials from the Barton County Health Department, and will bring this topic up to them.

“I think you would have support of the board to pursue that,” said Brad Schiermeyer, board

“I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t more forward with that,” added John Sherman, board attorney.

• Clark said because of their remote learning status, both Central Plains schools on the southern end of the district will continue conducting no activities until Nov. 20. It will then be reevaluated. Wilson School, because of its hybrid learning status, will continue with team practices.

“If the numbers are decent, then we can start practice that next week,” Clark said. “I do believe athletics are an important part of what we do, but I think we should pump the brakes a bit.”

• Approval was given to the second reading of board policy updates for tobacco free school grounds and the child nutrition program.

• The resignations of Kay Bailey and Leslie Dumler were accepted.

• Approval was given to hire Tim Pflughoeft for maintenance and Dustin Vopat as a custodian at Wilson School.

• Approval was given to Allen Hurley as head boys basketball coach at CPJSHS, Kylie Holmes as a substitute teacher and Larry Metro as a substitute custodian at CPJSHS.

• A discussion of bleachers was tabled until the next board meeting.

• Clark said the Nov. 5 building configuration committee meeting was canceled because of COVID-19. He did note, however, 30 people have expressed interest in being on the committee. Clark hopes the committee can meet in December.

• Clark thanked everyone at district schools for their hard work this past few days.

“We’re going to try to get back in school as soon as possible,” he said. “Pray for us and let’s keep working together to make this happen.”

The next meeting of the Central Plains USD 112 board of education will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, at Wilson School.