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Tawana Grover: Next few weeks 'very critical' as area moves into Phase 4

Tawana Grover: Next few weeks 'very critical' as area moves into Phase 4

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The Grand Island Public Schools will stay the course even as many public health restrictions for the state are lifted beginning Monday.

Superintendent Tawana Grover told the board at its meeting Thursday night that as the Central District Health Department moves to Phase 4, GIPS will continue to engage with the health department, ESU 10 and the Nebraska Department of Education.

Grover said the board is “not just looking at the numbers for today, but really watching what has occurred and reflecting on things across the country and what we can predict for the future.”

She said she told Teresa Anderson, health director for CDHD, that the next few weeks “are going to be very critical.”

“Therefore, as we (the Central District) move into Phase 4, there is no major, immediate impact or changes to GIPS,” Grover said. “We will remain in our GIPS Reimagined model and will continue to implement the safety protocols we have in place.”

Associate Superintendent Robin Dexter said GIPS has provided weekly communication to staff members throughout the pandemic. She added the district has worked to have “honest and open communication” with families and the community and that its town hall meetings related to its COVID-19 response were well-received.

Cory Gearhart, executive director of information technology, said that one of the things that came out of the district’s town halls and meetings with stakeholders is that almost everyone wants to see the COVID-19 data and what it means for them, their students and their families. As a result, he said, the district recently created a dashboard that displays this information including data from the CDHD on the number of positive COVID-19 cases among GIPS students and staff, along with quarantined individuals in the district. The weekly data will be tracked from Friday through Thursday.

As of Thursday, the dashboard shows 42 GIPS students are quarantined and two have tested positive. Seven staff members are quarantined and four have tested positive.

“We are taking into consideration all of the privacy issues that surround things with health care information,” Gearhart said. “We reached out to the health department and said, ‘We want to be as transparent as possible with our staff and families, so what information can we give and deliver on a weekly basis to show our families and stakeholders?’”

Board member Dan Brosz asked Dexter how long it takes for students to receive their results once they are tested. She said it takes between five and seven days.

Chief Financial Officer Virgil Harden said GIPS is entitled to about $2 million in CARES Act funding. The district has worked on putting together an application for the funds to submit to the Nebraska Department of Education.

“We did receive some feedback of four to five things they want tweaked and are working on that; we hope to have that to them by the end of the week,” Harden said. “It is a reimbursement-basis thing, so we are spending our money in hopes that we are sent a check.”

Dan Petsch, director of buildings and grounds, said the district has purchased $128,000 worth of personal protective equipment.

“It was quite a challenge,” Petsch said. “When we got a heavy shipment in March, we were engaged with suppliers and vendors to try to obtain PPE. We embarked on a historic 2020-21 school year and we got about 95% of the necessary items that we needed. We had deliveries coming in the week that school started, and that was necessary for us to kick off our plans of keeping kids safe and cleaning classrooms and buildings throughout the day.”

He said he thinks GIPS is moving forward and that the district is looking at other vendors to try to secure materials it still needs.

Board member Terry Brown applauded Petsch and his crew for being able to secure PPE and cleaning materials.

“It is a monumental thing to get all this stuff that everyone else in the country cannot get,” Brown said.

In other action, the GIPS board:

— Swore in Tim Mayfield as its new Ward B member. Mayfield, who was appointed by the board Tuesday, will serve the remainder of former board member Heidi Schutz’s term, which ends in January. Schutz resigned after accepting a job in the Kansas City area.

— Swore in Grand Island Senior High senior Kendall Bartling as its student representative.

— Approved the fiscal 2020-21 budget and levy.

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