Longer break, pandemic pay approved by school board

An image of the new Viking mascot costume USD 465 will purchase from BAM Mascots, Inc.

The Winfield Board of Education agreed to extend winter break two extra days amid the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dec. 20 and  21, a Monday and Tuesday, now will be added to the break that runs through Jan 3.  Staff will be paid for the time off. Students return to school Tuesday, Jan 4.

The move leaves only two days off for inclement weather or other reasons for the rest of the year.  Superintendent Nathan Reed said the district will seek input on whether it should add days at the end of the school year, or add minutes to remaining school days, if that choice becomes necessary to meet the required instruction time.

Reed said the extra time off is to help students and staff with mental health and fatigue caused by the pandemic.

He did not have specific COVID-19 case numbers and quarantines on hand Tuesday but said both are increasing, as well as other illnesses.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported that USD 465 saw 56 student infections between Nov. 6 and Nov. 19.

Several elementary classes are quarantining in place at Irving and Country View, and possibly one at Lowell, Reed said Tuesday.

The district plans to create an online COVID dashboard to provide the public with specific numbers of cases and quarantines and update it weekly.

USD 470 displays a dashboard that is updated daily. Reed said community and staff members asked about having one for Winfield.

“We’re going to pull that together in an effort to be transparent,” he said. “It wasn’t that we are hiding data or anything like that. It’s just about compiling it and having somebody do that. Now I think we’ve got it figured out.”

Also COVID related, the school board approved $500 premium pay for all 714 district employees, including at the special education coop.

That will cost the district $384,667.50 from its contingency reserves.

“It’s another form of appreciation, understating that our people are working above and beyond the normal scope of what’s asked off them,” Reed said.

Girls wrestling

The USD 465 athletics department got the go-ahead this week to start a girls wrestling program at the middle school.

Athletic Director John Kaufman told Reed that he expected about 10 to 15 students would participate. Practice would start the first week of January.

Brian Osborn will be the head coach with the intention to hire a female assistant. The girls would practice in the middle school wresting room and compete in the Patriot League.

“Excited to see what that brings and how many girls we can get involved with that,” Reed said.

Efforts to reach Kaufman this week for more details about the new program were unsuccessful.

Mascot

The board also approved buying a new Viking mascot costume for $6,300 from Bam Mascots, Inc.

Reed said the current uniform is more than 10 years old. The new mascot coincides with a branding effort that includes an updated logo adopted recently.

The purchase price includes a $350 “cooling vest” with cool packs to maintain a temperature of 59 degrees up to two and half hours, according to the bid.

The costume features a head and helmet, ventilation system, muscle body suit, tunic, belt and buckle, gloves and boots.

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