While the Janesville School District won’t decide until next month how to conduct school in the fall, district officials on Tuesday provided a look at possible day-to-day operations if students return to school buildings.
Director of Pupil Services Kim Peerenboom and Director of Benefits Administration and Wellness Tina Johnson shared those plans during Tuesday’s school board meeting. The board is expected to decide at its meeting July 14 whether school will be held in person, online or using a mix of the two.
Johnson said the district has been planning as if all students will be back in person next fall. This allows the district to be as prepared as possible regardless of what model the school board picks, she said.
“I think we firmly believe that if we plan for everybody in, we can dial back from there what needs to happen as far as a blended model or a virtual model,” she said.
Peerenboom said a pandemic plan with procedures that cover the spectrum of back-to-school scenarios is in the works. The plan will allow administrators to have outlined plans in place should a coronavirus outbreak emerge in the schools.
The plan would have students and staff go through a health checklist before heading to school each day. Those with symptoms such as a fever or sore throat would stay home until symptoms go away or a doctor clears them, Peerenboom said.
Other aspects of the plan include implementing regular hygiene practices such as washing hands for all students. Additional hand sanitizer dispensers were purchased and will be placed throughout all school buildings.
The custodial manager for the school district will be in buildings frequently to ensure custodians are following proper cleaning procedures and that cleaning is happening as frequently as expected. The CDC recommends one thorough cleaning a day for schools, which includes wiping down high-touch areas and limiting community supplies, Peerenboom said.
Each building will likely have two areas for student health visits—a wellness room for medications or injury treatment and a separate “contagious” room for students with such symptoms as vomiting, sore throat or fever.
The district also hopes to have first aid kits available to all teachers to reduce nurse’s office traffic. Teachers will likely need to call the nurse’s office to ask about availability before sending a student.
The district is continuing to plan for other specific aspects of the school day such as food service and transportation ahead of the July 14 meeting where the board will decide how to proceed.
Superintendent Steve Pophal said at Tuesday’s meeting he believes the ideas Peerenboom and Johnson shared will be important when school resumes this fall.
“I have great confidence in the work they’re doing to set us up to be successful and to be responsive to whatever it is that awaits for us in the coming months ahead in terms of what school looks like,” Pophal said.
He also said the plans will give principals and other building leaders the ability to consistently carry out the safe administration of in-person schooling, if that turns out to be part of the back-to-school plan the school board chooses.
Earl Dean Gutzmer
Maurita C. “Jo” Laube
Mark C. Lewis
Elizabeth M. Meyer
Charlotte Ann Miller
Eugene A. Nelson
Timothy Michael Shea
Julia Ann Stark
Doreen Karges Thusius
The next few weeks are critical to tamping down a disturbing coronavirus surge, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday—issuing a plea for people to avoid crowds and wear masks just hours before mask-shunning President Donald Trump was set to address a crowd of his young supporters in one of the country’s current hot spots.
Fauci and other top health officials also said they have not been asked to slow down virus testing, in contrast to Trump’s claim last weekend that he had ordered fewer tests be performed because they were uncovering too many infections. Trump said earlier Tuesday that he wasn’t kidding when he made that remark.
“We will be doing more testing,” Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, pledged to a House committee conducting oversight of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
The leading public health officials spent more than five hours testifying before the committee at a fraught moment with coronavirus cases rising in about half the states and political polarization competing for attention with public health recommendations.
Fauci told lawmakers he understands the pent-up desire to get back to normal as the U.S. begins emerging from months of stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns. But that has “to be a gradual step-by-step process and not throwing caution to the wind,” he said.
“Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Fauci said.
Troubling surges worsened Tuesday in several states, with Arizona, California, Mississippi, Texas and Nevada setting single-day records for new coronavirus cases. Some governors said they’ll consider reinstating restrictions or delaying plans to ease up in order to help slow the spread of the virus.
Arizona, where Trump was headed for a speech at a Phoenix megachurch, reported a new daily record of nearly 3,600 additional coronavirus infections Tuesday. Arizona emerged as a COVID-19 hot spot after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lifted his stay-home orders in mid-May. Last week he allowed cities and counties to require masks in public places, and many have done so.
Texas surpassed 5,000 new cases for a single day for the first time—just days after it eclipsed 4,000 new cases for the first time—as America’s largest pediatric hospital began taking adult patients to free up bed space in Houston. The infection rate in Texas has doubled since late May. And Nevada surpassed a record one-day increase for the fourth time in the past eight days. Other states also were experiencing worrisome surges, including Louisiana, Utah and South Carolina.
Another worrisome trend: an increase in infections among young adults. Fauci said while COVID-19 tends to be less severe in younger people, some of them do get very sick and even die. And younger people also might be more likely to show no symptoms yet still spread the virus.
If people say, “’I’m young, I’m healthy, who cares’—you should care, not only for yourself but for the impact you might have” on sickening someone more vulnerable, Fauci said.
About 2.3 million Americans have been infected and some 120,000 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Republican Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia asked if Fauci regretted that the American public wasn’t urged sooner to wear face masks and then interrupted before the visibly annoyed scientist finished answering.
Fauci said he didn’t regret the change in recommendations. Early in the pandemic there was a “paucity of equipment” for health workers “who put themselves daily in harm’s way” and “we did not want to divert” those scarce supplies, he said.
Scientists eventually recommended the general public use cloth masks after they better understood that people with no symptoms could be spreading the virus—even though they don’t offer as much protection as the sophisticated masks health workers wear and aren’t a substitute for staying 6 feet away from other people.
Trump, meanwhile, doubled down on testing claims that have public health experts appalled, tweeting Tuesday, “Cases are going up in the U.S. because we are testing far more than any other country, and ever expanding. With smaller testing we would show fewer cases!”
Less testing in fact means more infections going undetected. The U.S. was slow in ramping up and currently is conducting about 500,000 tests per day. Many experts say to control the spread of the virus, it should be testing 900,000 or more.
Brett Giroir, a Health and Human Services assistant secretary, told lawmakers Tuesday the next step is testing patient samples in large batches to stretch limited supplies, which would expand U.S. screening between fivefold and tenfold.
Instead of testing each person individually, health workers would pool samples from 50, 100 or more people from the same office or school, for example. A negative result would clear everyone, while a positive would require each person to be individually re-tested.
And Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, added that it’s now recommended for workers in nursing homes—hard-hit by the virus—to be tested weekly.
As for the anxiously awaited vaccine, Fauci said he believes “it will be when and not if” it arrives, and he is “cautiously optimistic” that some vaccine could be available at the end of the year.
More than a dozen vaccine candidates are in various stages of testing around the globe, and the U.S. next month is poised to begin the largest study—in 30,000 people—to get the needed proof that one really works. Meanwhile, countries, including the U.S. under a program called “Operation Warp Speed,” are beginning to stockpile millions of doses of different shots, in hopes at least some will prove usable.
Health officials assured lawmakers Tuesday that there won’t be shortcuts on safety.
“We absolutely must maintain regulatory independence and make the right decision for the American people based on the science and the data,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn said.
Democrats blasted Trump for confusing the public with erroneous statements—from testing to masks to unproven treatments—and ignoring the public health experts’ advice.
“It costs lives,” Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida said of Trump’s false claims. She urged the public health specialists to do more to counter the president: “We really expect you to be more outspoken.”
Pushed on whether schools should reopen in August and September, Redfield insisted that will vary not just by state but by school district, depending on how many infections are in a particular area.
“Many jurisdictions will be reopening schools,” and CDC will soon issue some guidelines to help, he said.
Fauci noted that schools should tailor their decisions to local conditions, saying some might need few restrictions and others more. He offered the same advice to colleges, saying they should assume some students will get infected and that there must be ways to keep them and their classmates safe.
Four years after Black Bridge Bowl closed its doors, the former bowling alley will make its return—not as bowling lanes but as a new resale shop that will be run by GIFTS Men’s Shelter.
Dave Ellis, longtime GIFTS coordinator and board member, said renovation of the former bowling alley at 1141 Black Bridge Road is ongoing, but he expects the 10,000-square-foot GIFTS Thrift Store to open in October.
Ellis said the shop will be an industrial-chic, “upscale” consignment place where donated clothing and other items are resold and the proceeds used to support programs at the homeless men’s shelter at 1025 N. Washington St.
When the shop opens, people might notice a vestige of the building’s past.
“We’re reusing the wood approaches to the old bowling lanes, which is the same wood as what was used in the (bowling) alleys,” Ellis said. “We’ll cut up all that wood and use it to make the store’s counter and the shelving along the walls and in the dressing rooms.
“We wanted to keep part of that nostalgia for the people who knew it used to be a bowling alley.”
Black Bridge Bowl closed in July 2016 and has been vacant since, although the building’s owner, Kevin Hendricks, has worked on deals to put the building back in use.
Ellis said GIFTS will lease an L-shaped space that Hendricks is paying to renovate. Another smaller portion of the building will become the new home of a Veterans Administration clinic.
The thrift store is the result of two years of planning by GIFTS and research by Ellis, who will manage the store. Ellis said the store will operate under a simple motto that will be emblazoned on its exterior sign: “Shop. Donate. Volunteer.”
It’s part of a new era for GIFTS.
Last week, the nonprofit announced the hiring of a new director, inner-city homeless shelter manager John Koesema of Dallas, who in July will replace outgoing Executive Director Stephanie Burton.
GIFTS also is looking to build new revenue streams that will help the Christian faith-oriented agency grow its programs and services. It currently offers a 24-hour shelter and day center that can help about 25 men recover from homelessness. Programs include counseling, job placement and a transitional living program.
Last week, board President Matt Prestil said the shelter is looking at a possible expansion that might include services for homeless women or families.
Ellis said the words “GIFTS Thrift Store” will appear on the store’s sign inside a stylized outline of a price tag. The design, he believes, will help people understand it’s a resale shop and underscore the reality of GIFTS’ mission with the homeless population: It costs money.
“We realized a long time ago that as our ministry grows and we move toward more services for the guys, it comes with more employees and more programming. Which all costs money,” Ellis said. “We are almost 100% run on donations. So that’s why our number one goal here was for a new revenue stream to help our ministry.”
Ellis said GIFTS clients will work at the store, taking donations and helping with donation processing and warehousing operations.
GIFTS hasn’t formally solicited donations yet, but volunteers and clients already have begun sorting and storing dozens of bags of items donated by people who have learned about the resale shop.
The nonprofit has always operated on volunteer labor, mainly members of a core of local churches that have partnered with GIFTS over its 12-year history. Ellis said he and an assistant will run operations at the resale shop, but it will rely on volunteer help, too.
GIFTS tries to protect the privacy of its clients, so it doesn’t give the public free access to its homeless shelter or clients. Ellis said that among other benefits, the resale shop will give the public a better understanding of what GIFTS does for the homeless population—and even allow customers and clients to meet each other.
“Maybe the most important reason we wanted this store is because we can tell our story to so many more people than just the local church volunteers that have helped at the shelter,” Ellis said.
“There’s tons of people that say, ‘GIFTS Men’s Shelter? What’s that?’ They don’t even know what it is yet. We’ve been here for more than 10 years. So this way, we plan on sharing our story.”