The East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education confronted the issue of Glencairn Elementary School having more Covid cases than other buildings, pitched the possibility of using remaining bond money to create outdoor learning spaces, heard the results of a financial audit, and debriefed about dedicating Robert L. Green Elementary at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 27.
Glencairn Elementary currently has 20 Covid cases according to Superintendent Dori Leyko, and one class was moved online for one week.
During her Superintendent’s report, Leyko addressed the relatively high number of active Covid cases at Glencairn Elementary as compared to other buildings in the district. According to the district’s Covid dashboard, Glencairn Elementary has 16 active cases, Green Elementary two, and Red Cedar and Whitehills Elementary Schools one each.
Leyko clarified that, over the weekend, three students and one staff member at Glencairn tested positive, bringing the total number of cases there to 20. Leyko said the total number of students in Glencairn is about 300.
One class that had four positive cases moved online. Leyko told the Board that there is not a specific number of cases that will result in a classroom being moved online. Instead, the district and public health officials from the Ingham County Health Department will consider other factors, such as where students are seated in a classroom and the number of students in quarantine.
ELPS is using a test-to-stay program, meaning that students considered close contacts of Covid-positive classmates can undergo rapid antigen testing and attend class if the results are negative.
Trustee Elizabeth Lyons said that her son, who had been a close contact of a Covid-positive student, used the test-to-stay program. She also applauded the Glencairn administration for its transparency and communication as well as for taking additional mitigation steps, like using the STEAM room for lunch to allow students to spread out.
School Board President Terah Chambers and Secretary Chris Martin, who also have children at Glencairn, agreed, and Martin also pointed to the use of outdoor spaces for lunch as well.
Leyko said that some have asked, “What is everyone else doing that Glencairn is not?” She said that protocols across the district are largely the same and that, following the increase of cases at Glencairn, stricter measures – such as staggering dismissals – were introduced there.
“We are concerned,” said Leyko, who then explained how she and building administrators have worked to hold daily check-ins about Covid data and how principals spend their weekends contact-tracing because it cannot wait until Monday morning.
During public comment, district parent Heather Marlow encouraged the Board to increase participation in its Covid pool-testing program as much as possible. The district is participating in a Covid-19 PCR testing program run by United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The program tests combined spit pools of up to 10 Covid PCR tests weekly. If a pool comes back positive, those in the spit pool can narrow down who exactly is positive by either taking another PCR test or an antigen test.
Currently, about 360 students and staff across the district are participating, but there is room for many more. Marlow said testing like this is important but much more effective when more people participate, allowing the testing to discern Covid-positive students and staff.
Following a question from Martin, Leyko said she is awaiting guidance from the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators and MIOSHA about whether and how districts will implement the federal vaccine mandate issued by President Joseph R. Biden, requiring employers with more than 100 employees to enforce Covid-19 vaccine mandates or mandatory regular testing for those who decline vaccines.
During the Bond Update, Leyko proposed using the remaining funds to construct outdoor learning spaces at the elementary schools.
Following the renovation and reconstruction of elementary school buildings across the district, some money from the $94 million bond still remains, and Leyko proposed using those funds to build outdoor learning spaces. ELi asked Leyko and Finance Director Richard Pugh how much remains in the bond fund, and Leyko told ELi that Pugh would provide the exact figure when he returns from vacation on Oct. 4.
Leyko said that a presentation will be made to the Board next month and bids will be put out in December with the Board voting on approval in January. Outdoor learning spaces will then be built in summer of 2022.
Chambers explained that the options for what the bond money can be used for are limited and must remain in the parameters of what the district told the community it hoped to do with the money.
Vice President Kate Powers pointed out for the community that although the need for outdoor learning spaces is felt now, the process will not allow for these outdoor spaces to be built until the summer. Leyko said that there is currently use of outdoor spaces now but “not at the level” that could be achieved with the construction of more outdoor spaces.
The district received a clean financial audit.
The report from Maner Costerisan, the consultant hired to conduct the audit, stated that all information presents fairly. Maner Costerisan representative Dave Nielson, who presented to the Board, said that this was the “highest level.”
According to Nielson, the district’s Finance Director Rich Pugh carefully budgeted and followed the budget. There was less than a one percent variance between what was budgeted and what was spent.
The only issue that arose was that the district had more than three months’ worth of planned expenditure in its Food Services Fund Balance due to increased federal funding. Regulations limit how much can be in this account at a given time. The district has submitted a letter explaining how it plans to spend the money to come into compliance.
The audit also included factors that might impact future budgets, including: a projected decrease in students; an projected increase in state per-pupil funding; one-time funding from the federal government; an increasing retirement rate; and renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements.
Here’s what else was discussed:
The Board expressed enthusiasm for the dedication of Robert L. Green Elementary School on Friday, Sept. 24. You can read more about the dedication ceremony here.
The Board also unanimously passed the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act Resolution, meaning that discrimination based on “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles,” will not be tolerated in ELPS. Protected hairstyles include braids, locks, and twists.