The Board of Education voted 5-2 on Sept. 28 to make a change to the Return to School Operations Plan, removing temperature screenings from all Dodge City USD 443 facilities.
The proposal was made in lieu of Gov. Laura Kelly not extending Executive Order 20-59, which required temperature checks in public schools.
Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended that temperature screenings in K-12 schools cease to continue.
District director of safety Shawn Lampe said Ford County Health Department administrator Angela Sowers and Ford County health officer Dr. R.C. Trotter are not in favor of temperature screenings.
Lampe said Ford County had decided to opt out of Executive Order 20-59, which in turn gave the BOE the right to consider a motion to opt out as well.
"The reasoning is, we’re gathering kids up too much to do the temperature checks and we’re afraid it could be spreading through those kids," said Lampe. "When we started this Operations Plan, we felt like we should continue to require masks and temperature checks; however, we’re not seeing a big benefit from the temperature checks."
Lampe cited reports he had received about two kids in the school district that were sent home with temperatures but did not test positive for COVID-19.
Lampe said that USD 443 currently sits around 21 positive active cases, made up of 12 staff and nine students, and that information is reflected on the district website as of Sept. 25.
Lampe said temperatures that are being reported and in accordance with information provided by Sowers are in fact strep throat cases.
Board member Traci Rankin, one of the opposing votes, disagreed on the bounds that temperature screening is the only measurable symptom for COVID-19 and suggested that a change in tactics could be in order, such as screening in individual classrooms.
"I just caution that if we don’t do it at all, it takes away from that measurable response, but there is certainly a better tactic in doing it by classroom rather in the front of the building," said Rankin.
Members of the BOE acknowledged received reports from teachers still supporting temperature checks.
Lampe said that if the BOE had not voted to dismiss temperature screening, that he agreed in looking at alternatives to the current way that temperatures are screened.
"I just don’t know if we’re meriting the cause of what we initially thought we were going to do," said superintendent Fred Dierksen. "When we have an attendance of almost 7,000 students every day and we are checking that many temperatures and seeing only those results, that’s pretty obvious right there by itself.
"But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some value and that there aren’t some measuring that could have worth to us."
Board member Pamela Preston also voted against removing temperature screening from the Operations Plan.
The BOE also received an update on the demolition of the former administration building, being overseen by Hutton Construction.
The Ford County Historical Society were able to receive a list of items they wanted procured from the old administration building. The main demolition process is said to be underway starting next week and is expected to end around the beginning of December.
Dierksen reported to the BOE an incident that was believed to be an attempted theft of materials from the demolition site by someone that claimed to be an employee of Hutton Construction. The issue is perceived to be resolved after getting the alleged impostor on the phone with people from Hutton Construction.
Remaining material from the demolition site is now considered official property of Hutton Construction.
Additionally, the BOE passed 7-0 an approval for an invoice for $27,062.40 to be paid to United Telephone to install a complete telephone system for the SW Kansas Area Cooperative District 613’s office space in the District Office and Learning Center.
Dierksen gave information regarding Count Day, an annual event held across Kansas that provides a picture of enrollment for all schools. Count Day typically occurs on Sept. 20 but was held on Sept. 21 this year due to Sept. 20 falling on a Sunday.
Dierksen said that compared to the 2019-20 school year and due in large part to COVID-19, overall enrollment is down, particularly in the lower grades, at around 198 students district-wide.
"I feel like our numbers are strong and if we can get through this, I believe students will come back and we’ll be even stronger," said Dierksen. "I feel like kids need to be in school."