Trustees OK COVID-19 update, eyes ‘2%’ clarity

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Williamson welcomed as returning interim superintendent

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Fredericksburg Independent School District’s Board of Trustees were presented with updates to the district COVID-19 procedures Tuesday, Jan. 5.

The information was provided during an emergency 6 p.m. meeting at the Central Office, 234 Friendship Lane.

“This meeting couldn’t have come at a better time because, at the start of the semester, we all want to be on the same page and know that we can get this semester rolling the way it needs to,” said Dalen Kirchner, FISD Safety Director and Gillespie County High School principal.

Kirchner gave the board updated information in regard to quarantine times and a clear definition on the timeline. This information is based on updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A person with COVID-19 must quarantine for 10 full days, down from the previous number of 14. The person must be symptom-free for the final 24 hours of those 10 days. According to this information, a person who is symptomatic, the first day he or she experiences symptoms is considered “Day One.”

Asymptomatic people must quarantine for 10 days as well, with no symptoms in the final 24 hours. “Day One” is defined as the date the individual got tested.

If someone is exposed to a positive case, the individual can test on the fifth day after the exposure. That person can return to campus on Day Seven if the test is negative. For those who wish not to test, they can come back on Day 10 if they are experiencing no symptoms. Exposed individuals are still asked to monitor symptoms for 14 days.

Campus threshold

Kirchner also asked the board for clarity on the 2% threshold rule for each campus.

He presented the board with the number of remote learners in the district, which was 251 at the time.

Dr. Marc Williamson, interim superintendent, asked Kirchner if the 2% threshold was based on a Texas Education Agency recommendation.

“From my understanding, at the very beginning of this, that was kind of a common thing the schools were doing,” he replied. “I don’t believe you have to do 2%. I think that was just a baseline for a lot of districts.”

He added this was initially written as a hardline threshold, but there has been much discussion about it after several schools were ordered to close just before Thanksgiving.

Board President Dr. Lance Love noted “there is no gold standard” when it comes to a threshold. Williamson said he just wants to be as consistent as possible.

“If the 2% is a threshold at which time we’ll sit down, take a look and evaluate if we should close the campus, then we probably need to say that,” he said. “If it’s a hard 2%, then it’s going to be a hard 2%.”

The board agreed to move forward with the 2% threshold being a trigger for the district to review the campus’s situation of how many teachers and staff are still healthy and on campus.

Instruction option date

The board also agreed on creating a date as to when students and staff must inform the district as to whether they will learn remotely or come back in person so that the district can know what each student’s plan is.

“What concerns me and I know y’all too, is that we can’t allow anybody to skip a year,” he said. “So I think this will help the campus administration plan.”

Trustee Kelly DiCuffa agreed, but asked if there could be “a little bit of gray area,” as every situation is different.

Williamson liked the idea, and said whatever is sent out will have information about how to approve exceptions through the school office.

Board member Kerinne Herber asked if the board would continue with the policy that students must be passing to qualify for remote learning.

The current rule, Love said, is that a student must have a 90% attendance rate and be passing all classes to qualify for remote learning.

Williamson said he was in favor of keeping this policy.

 “This is not a ‘gotcha’ kind of thing,” Williamson said. “We’ve just got to get some learning going. We can’t let you drop through the cracks just because it’s more convenient for us.”

Testing

Kirchner also updated the board on the district’s staff member testing.

“We’ve tested over 200 staff, and I wanted to give shoutouts to Natalie Handley, the nurse Kassidy Copell at the high school and FHS Principal Joe Gonzalez,” he said. “They’ve been doing a lot of testing and so we thank them for that very much.”

The event uses the Binax NOW testing kits, which he said are providing good results.

To get the nasal swab test, employees can call the Fredericksburg High School nurse’s office at 830-997-7551 to schedule an appointment.

At the time of the appointment, employees are asked to wait by the door nearest the principal’s parking area. A “COVID TESTING” sign will be posted.

Once in, employees should go into the first door to the right and take a seat.

The test will be administered and results will be read 15 minutes after the test.

Once the test result is recorded, employees are asked to exit immediately through the same doors and go directly to their cars.

If positive, the campus principal and the central office will be informed and further directions will be provided.

Williamson

Last Tuesday was Williamson’s first meeting as the interim superintendent, a position he took after former superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Brasher resigned at the end of 2020.

During the first few days in the role, Williamson said he’s “impressed” with the quality of work from every staff member, from administrators, to the maintenance crew and the janitorial staff.

“I did not realize the depth we had and the amount of work they put in the last time I served as superintendent and I’ve been more appreciative this time.”

Williamson was the district’s superintendent from 1998 to 2014. He served as an interim once before when former superintendent Dr. Eric Wright moved to Hays Consolidated School District in late 2017.

Finding a new superintendent is a lengthy process, Williamson said. The district typically works with a search firm, who helps screen candidates and select individuals to interview.

Then, finalists are chosen and receive a visit. Once a lone finalist is chosen, the board announces him or her in a meeting, allowing for the community to review and provide input.

He expects this process could take through the spring or longer.