Mapleton continues to move forward with reopening

School board gets COVID-19 update

Feb. 27, 2021 — Mapleton School District Board of Directors met for its regular session on Feb. 17, with the board meeting over Zoom and the public able to watch via YouTube. There were several appearances from district students along with the agenda.

The big news for the district is the return of students to campus, with Mapleton Elementary operating in a hybrid mode of onsite learning and days at home. Next week, Mapleton will begin to bring back its middle and high school students starting Wednesday, with 11th and 12th grade.

Mapleton School District Superintendent said the district can now begin to bring in additional grade levels due to the lowering metrics of COVID-19 cases in Lane County. As of Friday, the county shifted from “extreme risk” to “high risk” for the first time since the state announced the new metric system in November.

“The trend is down, and Lane County Public Health has indicated that they're hopeful that the trend will continue to go down,” O’Mara said. “That has dropped us this week into the onsite and hybrid model. That was our hope in the beginning, when we set the timeline for phasing in students to be on site, that we eventually will get here so that we can bring our middle school high school students in.”

Currently, 80 percent of the middle/high school students are planning to come in for on-site instruction.

“That's 47 of them, right now, wanting to come every day for a full school day,” O’Mara said.

The other 20 percent, or 12 students, are electing to stay in comprehensive distance learning (CDL), which uses the Edgenuity online learning platform.

According to Mapleton Special Activities Chair Opal Burruss, an 11th grader, “I think students are pretty excited to come back on campus. It's been a long time since we've been on campus, so it’s going to be nice to see everybody's faces, see all the teachers and not to see just the black screens with the names.”

At Siuslaw Elementary, 96 percent of students are participating in on-site learning, so 65, with three students remaining in CDL. 

“It's amazing, it's wonderful, and the kids are just doing amazing,” O’Mara said, talking about how the students have adapted to maintaining distance and wearing masks. “It's not anywhere near what they're used to, but they're just so happy to be back on campus.”

Mapleton School District has also vaccinated its staff, with the first round of COVID-19 vaccinations complete. The district partnered with Bethel School District, the Bethel Health Clinic and Siuslaw School District to vaccinate staff.

“Huge thanks to them. They helped coordinate to get vaccines for our staff so we were able to get them all done,” O’Mara said.

The district has been in touch with other Lane County school superintendents throughout the vaccination process.

O’Mara said Mapleton is planning ahead for ill effects, as some reports indicate that people feel a strong immune reaction to the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are being very aware of that and helping to support staff through that, because we want them to be able to receive their second dose,” she said.

In addition, the district is taking steps to protect people on campus from the potential of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“We have to provide on-site testing for our students and staff,” O’Mara said.

If someone is onsite and begins to experience symptoms — such as headache, fever or cough — the district is training two staff members to administer Abbott's BinaxNOW COVID-19 Rapid Test.

The test is designed to give results within 15 minutes and can detect even early stages of the virus. Tests are then logged with Oregon Health Authority. Positive tests are reported to Lane County Public Health.

O’Mara emphasized that testing will only happen with a signed consent form from students’ guardians.

“We can only test with parent consent. If the parents don't give consent and a student gets sick or they have a temperature, they go home. … So parents do not have to give consent to test. That is their right and we respect that,” she said.

Being able to administer COVID testing will allow for quicker response and contact tracing if a test is positive.

“It allows us to start the contact tracing to help stop the spread sooner than if we didn't have the testing in place,” O’Mara said.

Students from the student council often attend the Mapleton School Board meetings. In fact, the full Student Council will attend school board meetings at least once per quarter.

According to Opal, “We decided that the vice president and the secretary will attend all school board meetings, and other student council members can attend if they wish.”

In addition, the vice president will now be the student liaison to the Mapleton School Board.

“Since I am the vice president, I will be assuming this responsibility with my other ones already included in the vice president role,” said Orion Ricks.

He added that the Mapleton Student Council will now go through the process of amending the Student Body Constitution to include this duty in the vice president role.

Director Michelle Holman thanked him, saying, “We are delighted that you're going to advise us when we need a student perspective.”

Director Mizu Burruss thanked the Student Council, as well as adviser Juline Walker, for their work in appointing the position.

“That's a process to figure out how that works, and how to change the constitution and stuff like that. Thanks for going to all that effort,” Mizu said.

Later in the meeting, O’Mara included additional student participation, this time in the form of poetry from Melissa Duffy middle school students.

Morgan Milbrett, daughter of Director Andrea Milbrett, joined her mother’s screen to talk about a poem she wrote in response to U.S. Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s “The Miracle of Morning.”

According to Morgan, “This is just about the first notice that we got of school being canceled and all the thoughts that were running through everybody's heads.”

People can hear about the students’ poems on the YouTube video of the meeting, beginning at 32:23.

The school board meeting also consisted of approving the consent agenda, passing a supplemental budget, adopting an updated 403(b) Plan and signing the plan for Lane Education Service District’s services.

There were additional items which will be discussed further at the March meeting, including board goals, the Mapleton Budget Committee, the Equity Committee and standardized testing.

The Mapleton School Board meets next on Wednesday, March 17, 6 p.m., the last week before Spring Break.

Director Mary Ellen Mansfield said, “Hopefully we'll have everybody back in in-person that week, which will be exciting.”

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