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EDUCATION

COVID-19 cases spike in Osage School District

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At the Nov. 15 Osage Community School District Board meeting, Superintendent Barb Schwamman announced there has been a spike of COVID-19 cases within the school.

“We’ve had more cases than we’ve had in a long time,” Schwamman said, adding the high school is in double digits among students. “The quarantine number was (above) that a little bit more.”

According to Schwamman, one thing the school does not know is the vaccination status among staff, students and family members. Vaccination status would determine whether the entire family is quarantined, and would help determine the appropriate length of stay in quarantine before a return to school.

Sarah Leichsenring

Leichsenring

“Since we can’t require quarantining of any students, vaccination status goes into consideration,” said Osage Middle School Principal Sarah Leichsenring. She added Mitchell County Public Health helps with these matters.

Effective Nov. 5, OSHA published an emergency temporary standard (ETS) on vaccination and testing. According to OSHA, on Nov. 12, a U.S. Court of Appeals granted a motion to stay this ETS, forcing OSHA to suspend activities related to implementation and enforcement.

Schwamman stated that the ETS applies to schools with 100 or more full-time and part-time employees, which means it would apply in the Osage Community School District and not the Riceville Community School District, where Schwamman is also superintendent. All employees would need to be vaccinated, and there must be a written, mandatory vaccination policy.

“If employees are vaccinated, they would have to provide vaccination cards,” Schwamman said.

In addition, all unvaccinated employees would need to wear a face mask and be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis, according to Schwamman. Schools not in compliance could be fined up to $13,653 for each serious violation, or up to $136,532 for willful violation.

“So if we do nothing on this, that’s a willful violation, by not trying to come up with a plan,” Schwamman said. “In a perfect world, we’d come up with a plan (and) if we never have to use it, that’s fine, because we’ve been doing this with ESSER all along. But we’ve got to make a plan, because if (in) this court case they decide, ‘nope, we’re going to move forward with this,’ we have to have the plan ready to go. There’s not a grace period on this thing.

“This is something we hope does not divide people. Because, again, it is what it is.”

Barb Schwamman

Barb Schwamman

In other COVID-19 related news, Osage continues to form its plan to use the ESSER III Fund.

The ESSER III Fund is meant to provide relief to schools during COVID-19. Schwamman said that Osage’s plan has not changed, with the exception of the proposed infrastructure improvement on heating, cooling, air conditioning and electrical now requiring a request for proposal (RFP) process.

The school sat in on an RFP webinar that day to determine the correct steps for securing an architect or engineer.

Schwamman indicated the school is eligible for $939,827 from the federal government through the ESSER III Fund. According to the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education:

“Of the total amount allocated to an LEA from the State’s ARP ESSER award, the LEA must reserve at least 20 percent of funds ($187,965 for Osage) to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions and ensure that those interventions respond to students’ social, emotional, and academic needs and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underrepresented student subgroups.”

A few examples of these subgroups include students from low-income families, students with disabilities, and each major racial and ethnic group.

In accordance, Osage must develop goals detailing how it would spend this 20 percent. According to Schwamman, goal one is student learning opportunities. Due to COVID-19, Osage provided an intensive summer school including reading and math support. Osage hired a social worker shared with three other districts. As well, there was technology software and other learning supports to help instructors teaching math, reading or science.

For the other 80 percent, according to Schwamman, early budget estimates of around $751,000 will go toward the aforementioned infrastructure projects.

Osage High School in Autumn

Osage Community High School in autumn.

Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-971-6217, or by email at jason.selby@globegazette.com.

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