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School Board hears Covid update

FAIRMONT– At Tuesday evening’s Fairmont School Board meeting, Superintendent Andy Traetow touched on the district’s current Covid-19 data.

Traetow shared that the elementary school currently has nine active lab-confirmed Covid-19 cases and the high school has 13.

“We’re continuing to monitor all these numbers as we go through the school year. We’ve seen a gradual increase in our positivity rate in our buildings. The good thing is we haven’t see any spikes or outbreaks within a specific cohorts of students, but we have seen some gradual increases in those numbers,” Traetow said.

He said a goal of the district’s is to keep things as consistent as possible wile keeping students safe.

Traetow shared some of the district’s mitigation’s strategies, which include quarantine parameters and physical distancing. He said they’re using outdoor spaces and continue to use expanded lunchroom seating at both the elementary and high school.

“The current predictions are showing that inpatient census numbers in our hospitals are looking to persist for approximately the next four weeks. Local hospitalizations for covid have increased,” Traetow said.

He said local numbers show that 30 percent of the positive Covid results come from those ages six to 17.

“At this time we’ve not changing any of our mitigation strategies or actions, but we’re continuing to monitor and be mindful of what’s happening in our current setting and communicating with local health experts,” Traetow said.

Board member Julie Laue pointed out that masks are not mandatory in either of the school buildings and she asked Traetow if there’s been an increase in people wearing masks. He said that teachers and staff have reported an increase in students wearing masks.

Traetow also shared that on Monday the district broke ground on its new vocational center. Building and grounds director Tyler Garrison said that those involved in the project have started putting in fencing to barricade the area for safety.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Garrison.

Moving to other matters, Tiffany Harris, a STEM teacher at Fairmont Elementary School, was at Tuesday evening’s meeting to give a presentation on her work with students. Harris previously served as a preschool teacher for the district. This is her first year teaching STEM.

“I obtained my Master’s Degree in instructional strategies where I fell in love with the impact of student-centered and project-based learning, which is why I’m here to share with you about the wonderful things going on in our STEM program,” Harris said.

She said she’s currently teaching 5th and 6th grade STEM. Harris shared some different projects the students are working on, which involve other subjects like English and Math. She said future plans for STEM classes include new multiple day project-based learning activities

Harris said STEM is integrated into E-6 classrooms in the school and is also part of the targeted services summer school program.

“I feel like we are truly empowering them (students) with skills for the 21st century,” Harris said.

Board member Rufus Rodriguez asked Harris if she’s getting feedback from students or other teachers.

Harris said that collaborating with other classes has been fun, especially after last year when classes were smaller.

Rodriguez asked if there are opportunities for students to get involved in STEM beyond what Harris is offering. She spoke about the Martin County KnowHow program and an upcoming robotics challenge in December in which about 70 of her students are interested in.

“To me it’s kind of like sports. If you’re interested in basketball you can go and practice and join the team. Seeing how this unfolds will be interesting,” Harris said.

In other news, Blake Bode of Eide Bailly was present to provide the district with a clean audit report.

The board accepted the following donations:

— $360 from Mark Borchardt family for solar lighting to illuminate the flag at Fairmont High School, and six new flags.

— $10,000 from CHS for equipment and programming for the vocational academy.

— $12,500 from Fairmont 3M for STEM programming at Fairmont Elementary School.

— $8,500 from Fairmont 3M for STEM programing for Community Education and Recreation.

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