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Board Meeting Summary: Oct. 7, 2020

October 7, 2020
School Board Regular Meeting

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, the school board held a regular meeting. The meeting was held virtually in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. The meeting was open to the public via live video on Zoom, audio stream at www.4j.lane.edu/stream, and radio broadcast on KRVM 1280-AM. Public comment was received via email.

Regular Meeting

Introductory Comments

Interim Superintendent Cydney Vandercar discussed the concerning increase of COVID-19 cases in Lane County and how everyone needs to do their part—including physical distancing and wearing face coverings while away from home—to reverse the trend to protect public health and eventually allow 4J students to return to in-person learning.

Items for Information (no board action is expected to be taken)

Received an update on COVID-19 and comprehensive distance learning: District staff presented information about the opening of three internet hubs that will enable selected 4J students without internet at home to participate in online learning at specific school sites for up to two hours (the time limit set by the state) when public health conditions allow.

Staff also updated the board on their work with local childcare providers to offer needed childcare for families. The district has made space available for providers to offer childcare programs at Roosevelt Middle School, Arts & Technology Academy and Cal Young Middle School.

Information was shared about the district’s new school meal delivery service for children who are not near a meal pickup location or need assistance accessing meals. The new services starts Oct. 12. The district had received delivery requests from more than 400 families so far.

Lastly, staff provided information about improving ventilation in school buildings, including inspections and operational changes to ventilation systems to increase fresh outdoor air circulating in school buildings across the district. The district also will be installing new bipolar ionization air purification devices to the ventilation systems at all schools to reduce pathogens, allergens, smoke and other particulate matter in the air.

The board’s questions and discussion centered on childcare, grading, teacher workload, and helping educate families and students on the use of technology for comprehensive distance learning.

Received information about free Eugene Public Library cards for 4J students: Staff presented information about a new partnership program that makes Eugene Public Library cards free of charge for all 4J students. Non-residents normally must pay an $11 fee per month for the card, but that fee is being waived for the several hundred students enrolled in 4J schools who live outside the city limits, under a three-year pilot partnership of Eugene School District 4J, Eugene Public Library, and Eugene Public Library Foundation. Board members praised the program.

Received information about bond-funded construction projects: District staff updated board members on the progress of numerous bond-funded construction projects, both big and small. They included preparations for the new Edison Elementary School building, new North Eugene High School building and expansion of Gilham Elementary School, as well as many smaller-scale improvements at school buildings and facilities across the district, completed this spring and summer supported by bonds and other funds. The district has spent $31 million on bond-funded projects between April and the end of September. Board members praised the work of the district staff and again thanked local voters for approving the bond measures.

Items for Action

• Approved items on the consent agenda: The board authorized spending an estimated $540,000 to install bipolar ionization air purification devices in ventilation systems for school buildings across the district; awarded a $436,500 contract to remodel the Churchill High School wood shop; and approved the official minutes of the board’s Aug. 19, Aug. 28 and Sept. 10 meetings.

Approved changes to policy on student absences, including for religious holidays (Board Policy JED): The board has been discussing changes to board policies to broaden the district’s accommodations for students’ religious observances. The board unanimously approved changes to its policy on student absences to explicitly state that any student who is unable to attend class due to a religious holiday will be excused.

The adopted policy also reflects two new state laws that excuse students who miss school due to their mental and behavioral health and, if they are children of U.S. service members on or called to active duty, provides them up to seven days of excused absences.

Continued discussion on proposed changes to policy accommodating students’ religious observances (Board Policy JEF). The board has been discussing changes to board policies to broaden the district’s accommodations for students’ religious observances. Under current district policies, teachers excuse students who miss school to observe a religious holiday, and they can make up any missed assignments and tests at another time without penalty. The latest proposed changes to Board Policy JEF would:

• define major religious holidays and allow students and families to request others;
• prohibit the scheduling of important school-wide events on major religious holidays with limited exceptions;
• prohibit the scheduling of field trips on major religious holidays without the approval of a school administrator;
• require teachers and staff to consider possible conflicts when scheduling field trips, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities;
• encourage parents and students to communicate their need for religious accommodation to the school;
• require the school board to consider conflicts with major religious holidays during final exams when it considers approval of the academic calendar each year.

Board members Gordon Lafer and Judy Newman proposed revisions to the proposed policy changes that board members wanted more time to review. The board voted unanimously to postpone voting on changes to Board Policy JEF until Oct. 21.

Public Input

Public comment was submitted via email to board@4j.lane.edu. The board read, reviewed and took into consideration all comments submitted by email by 12 p.m. the day of the meeting. The six emailed comments discussed online instruction, standardized testing, policies on religious observances, and school building ventilation upgrades.

Agenda and Materials

Oct. 7 agenda and materials
Oct. 7 board regular meeting recording

 


NOTE:  This is a quick summary of the topics and actions at a meeting of the school board. This document is NOT the official minutes of the school board. Official minutes are posted after they are drafted, reviewed and approved by the board. Audio recordings of meetings are typically posted within two days after the meeting. 

School Board Meeting Schedule & Information

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