Board of education discusses winter sports, district coronavirus testing policies

Judd Weil
Dodge City Daily Globe

At Monday’s meeting of the Dodge City USD 443 Board of Education, superintendent Fred Dierksen shared the measures that will be enacted as schools move forward with 2020-2021 winter sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temperature checks will be removed from sporting events, in accordance with a vote at its Sept. 28 meeting to no longer require them as a district.

Dierksen said schools will try to utilize top-row seating in gymnasiums in order to maximize social distancing efforts during basketball and wrestling events. He said he anticipates that some people will be dissatisfied with the fact that there will be certain seating procedures.

“We’re just going to hopefully have understanding from people that we’re in a pandemic and we’re just trying to make things available so that we can keep having school and keep having activities,” Dierksen said.

When board member Pamela Preston asked what the Kansas State High School Activities Association had to say about the COVID-19 requirements for basketball and wrestling, Dierksen responded that the district is still adhering to KSHSAA guidelines.

Earlier in the school year, USD 443’s policies prohibited local non-school district sporting leagues to use school district facilities. Now, Dierksen said, the district will move forward to accommodate those leagues under the regulations that they pay a $10 charge per practice and only adhere to one practice or game per day in a designated area.

According to director of safety and security Shawn Lampe, COVID-19 numbers in the district have continued to remain between 20 and 30 at a time, despite having a small increase in staff case numbers, with a few at Dodge City Middle School.

Board member Traci Rankin asked about the guidelines for district employees who have been out of work multiple days and whether they are required to be tested for the coronavirus.

This was prompted for the sake of controlling rumors that there are people in the school district refusing to be tested due to perceiving it as an inconvenience to their activities. Lampe said district employees aren’t required to test for the coronavirus but are asked to not be in school if the are ill.

“We haven’t required anyone to be tested, so in a case where someone tells us that they’re ill and they have symptoms, then we would ask them to contact their physician and ask their physician if they should be tested,” said Lampe. “Once again, we don’t want anyone coming to school whether it’s COVID or not. If they’re sick, then they’re sick, and they shouldn’t be at school where they could be exposing people to anything.”

Dierksen reaffirmed with Lampe that since the beginning of implementing COVID-19 procedures USD 443 has not had the authority to require staff or students to test for the coronavirus and cannot require it.