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It’s parent-teacher conference time at Gothenburg Public Schools, and like everything else the conferences are being done differently this time due to Covid. Dudley Elementary Principal Angie Richeson explained to the school board at the monthly meeting on Monday, Sept. 14, what the conference would look like.

“In an effort to keep families extra safe we will not be holding in-person conferences, but will instead offer parent-teacher conferences either by Zoom video or by phone call,” said Richeson. “And the response from parents has been very positive.”

Conferences were held on Wednesday evening and will conclude on Friday. Therefore, there will be no classes at GPS on Friday, Sept. 18.

One challenge for the district during the pandemic has been getting the kids fed while maintaining social distancing. Richeson told the board that a remote cafeteria was set up in the elementary gym for the third and fourth grade classes to eat lunch. Last week that remote cafeteria moved to the north gym in the high school. Richeson thanked the custodial crew for their work in setting up and taking down seating for about 130 people every day to allow the use of the gym for P.E. and other activities.

The district also received some big news this past week regarding the school lunch program. As of Aug. 31 the USDA has extended the Summer Food Service Program, allowing meals to be served to all children at no charge this fall. Those kiddos who have eaten school meals during the month of September will be reimbursed into their family lunch account. The family account will still be charged for second entrees and milk. This program will run through Dec. 22 or as funds are available.

Dr. Todd Rhodes, Superintendent of GPS, shared in his report to the board Monday that although the entire state has moved to Directed Health Measure Phase IV the school district remains operational in the orange risk tier. Therefore, masks are still required for everyone entering the buildings. He said he continues to work very closely with Two Rivers Public Health Department and Gothenburg Health in making that determination.

Both Richeson and Director of Teaching and Learning Allison Jonas had high praise for Gothenburg students, who have encountered a lot of changes in the first four weeks of this school year. “We just continue to be so proud of our students. They are unbelievably resilient,” said Richeson.

Jonas presented a visual to the board depicting just how resilient the students truly are. In the midst of having to adjust to wearing masks all day and all of the other changes Covid has brought to the school, in terms of learning these kids have not missed a beat. A graph that she put together compared June numbers of where students were expected to be at this point, where they normally are this time of year with no Covid, and where they are now.

“Students are consistently above expectations at all grade levels, and at or above where they would be without Covid,” Jonas said enthusiastically. “This means our teachers have done a phenomenal job with remote learning, and that’s very exciting.”

Besides approving the consent agenda, the only item requiring a vote was a resolution designating Flatwater Bank and First State Bank as official depositories for District 20 funds for the 2020-21 fiscal year. This is done each year in alignment with board policy.

The board will next meet on Thursday, Sept. 17 at noon for a budget and tax request hearing.

Contact Ellen Mortensen at ellen@gothenburgleader.com or call 308.537.9498