Salida School Board unanimously elected Joel McBride as board president to fill the spot left by resigning school board member Jennifer Visitacion.

The move came during the board’s regular meeting Tuesday.

The board formally accepted Visitacion’s resignation and approved a resolution regarding the District 2 vacancy left by her departure.

So far the district has received two letters of interest in the position. Interested candidates will be interviewed at the board’s next work session Nov. 10 and one will be appointed at the regular board meeting later that evening.

The board heard a guest report from Chaffee County Public Health Director Andrea Carlstrom who updated the board on COVID-19, especially in light of the recent cases reported in connection to the schools which sent the district into remote learning last week.

Carlstrom said, “Protocols were tested last week and they do work and we’re really proud of our response. We learned the impact of one positive case and the ripple effect on our community.”

Carlstrom said there is currently no evidence that school is a source of transmission for COVID-19.

“I’m so proud of our school district. Schools are safe at this moment because of the planning and the proactive measures that have been taken so far and into the future.”

CCPH was recently able to procure 900 new tests for use with the schools through Curative and the state health department. 

Another batch of 1,000 tests will be sent by the state with the possibility of 10,000 more.

The tests currently have a two day turn around from a lab in California.

Carlstrom said the priority for the Curative tests is school and other large employers.

Tami Thompson, Salida High School principal, presented a detailed report to the board.

She said the school currently has 305 students attending in-person classes, which is down from last year, however, there are more than 60 students in the district who are opting to attend online classes. 

The district count is 367 high school students in the district which is on par with last year’s numbers.

Precautions taken at the high school for COVID-19 include a rearrangement of lunch schedules to reduce the number of students in the lunchroom. Water fountains have been turned off and water bottle filling stations installed. 

Double temperature checks are conducted once upon entering the building and once when reporting to the first class. Class sizes are being limited to 20 students.

Thompson mentioned the addition of a full time nurse, a first for SHS. Previously SHS shared a nurse with Salida Middle School.

In department reports, Nutrition Services manager Terry Clark reported the extension of the summer food service program through the remainder of the school year. 

All students regardless of income are eligible to eat breakfast and lunch for free for the rest of the school year.

Superintendent David Blackburn commended facilities manager Brandon Hawkins and his crew and the transportation department for their efforts to clean and disinfect buildings and buses to keep students and staff safe.

Blackburn discussed strategic plan priorities for District Accountability Committee involvement including the role of synchronous learning (in-person and online/remote options) and budget concerns.

“I don’t see synchronous learning going away,” Blackburn said. “It’s a permanent part of our landscape.”

Regarding the budget he said the district is currently financially stable enough to continue, but future planning will involve “some very difficult conversations.”

In other business the board:

• Discussed a timeline for a deeper discussion around recommendations for equity in education. Blackburn said he would try to have a multi-year plan to present at the January board retreat.

• Discussed the CMC concurrent enrollment credit policy and other policies in regards to SHS students and online students in Salida School District.

• Approved the hiring by the superintendent of a contractor for evaluation of director district population counts per CRS 22-31-100, which requires a reevaluation every 4 years to determine boundary lines for school board director districts.

• Approved on first reading policy changes as recommended by Colorado Association of School Boards which include policies related to the opening of schools, policies reflecting Title IX changes and policies reflecting legislative changes.

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