Pines Board Adopts Responses to Travel Plans, Food Distribution

By Vilas County News-Review, Posted on March 24, 2020

Northland Pines School Board members debated and adopted a series of proposals last week intended to guide district administration in their response to closing schools, continued educational efforts, spring break travel issues and school lunches amid almost daily changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have limited access to our schools and so far we have had zero confirmed cases (as of last Wednesday),” District Administrator Scott Foster told board members last Tuesday. “We’re at 80% attendance with the number of flu cases declining.”

Foster said the current school district closure, directed by the governor for all schools in Wisconsin, will last through April 5 with school planned to reopen Monday, April 6, depending on public health department and state recommendations.

He said staff and para-professionals were expected to be back in school Wednesday, March 25, for one day to gather material for digital teaching as much as possible to April 6.

“We will try different forms of technology and learn as much as we can, but there are a lot of ‘big ifs,’ ” Foster said.

Foster also noted that some staff members planned to travel during spring break March 30 to April 3.

“If staff travel during spring break and go through a state with at least 100 cases, when they return they will be subject to 14 days self-quarantine before returning to work,” said Foster.

Board President David Weber pointed out spring is when people want to get out of the North Woods.

“We need to urge them not to travel, although we have no way to enforce it,” said Weber.

“I understand what we’re asking, but in the interest of preventing transmission we need to be clear; yes, you can travel, but if you enter any state with 100 or more confirmed cases you need to self-quarantine for two weeks when you return to Wisconsin,” said Weber.

Board member Jeff Shenk said there are those who believe the COVID-19 situation is “overblown” and are rejecting the worldwide medical emergency.

“This is a historical moment in life and we will learn from it and be a better school district from this situation,” said Foster.

The board approved a directive from the administration to all employees that they need to reconsider travel plans during spring break. According to the plan:

— If staff have to be self-quarantined, they can either take sick leave or no pay;

— After spring break, those who are self-quarantined will take leave without pay and not be able to take sick leave; and

— A person who is quarantined two weeks with a positive test needs to have two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart to be able to return to work.

Asked about having to make up days of non-instruction, Foster indicated Northland Pines, along with most districts across the state, will ask for a waiver.

Food distribution

A food distribution plan for those students who received free breakfast and lunch at school was approved, starting with central distribution points for all youths age 18 and younger, including toddlers in a household.

The district will use paraprofessionals to prepare two meals per person at drop sites, probably transported in buses.

The sites will include Northland Pines parking lots at Eagle River, St. Germain and Land O’ Lakes elementary schools.

In addition, distribution points will be at the Eagle River Sports Arena parking lot, a site in Sayner, and the Conover Free Chuch parking lot on Highway 45. It’s anticipated the meals will be available from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Foster said during the  week of spring break, the school district cannot legally provide food.

“But we will through the generosity of the Feed Our Rural Kids program, which will pick up the cost,” said Foster.

Foster indicated the district is not ready to commit to door-to-door food distribution at this time, but officials are working on approaches to solve the problem of those who cannot travel to distribution sites.

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