By Dan Karpiel
The Thompson School District (TSD) is already hard at work developing plans for how to proceed with the 2020-21 school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The presentation from TSD Director of Teaching and Learning Tracey Stegall and TSD Chief Operations Officer Todd Piccone outlined the district’s early planning on this matter was the center of discussion at Wednesday’s virtual Board of Education meeting.
The broad outline has the district planning for three contingencies – traditional in-person instruction, learning exclusively online, or distance learning which is currently being employed to close out the 2019-20 school year and a mix of both. District administrators went to great length to state that the situation is highly fluid, and plans must be in place for a wide range of possibilities and that changes will likely have to be made continuously throughout the process.
It was said that the preference will be for the traditional model of in-person instruction but that the health and safety of students and faculty will take precedence. It is likely that in-person education, at least partially, will be available with social distancing requirements in the classrooms and school buildings.
Also considered was the possibility of pushing back the beginning of the 2020-21 school year but Piccone said that idea is not currently being considered as the pandemic will continue to be an issue in some form.
The effort is being undertaken at a district-wide level with input from virtually every corner with plans for everything being made by an array of study groups and sub-committees. On the learning services side, a team of 90 teachers, building administrators and specialists have outlined what was called “Thompson 3.0” which looks specifically at the learning factors of the three contingency plans. Other committees and groups are working on issues pertaining to food service, busing, scheduling, equal access to technology (in the scenario of online-only education continuing), social-emotional aspects and a host of others.
The Board also decided unanimously to approve the installation of synthetic turf, commonly called “field turf” at Max Marr stadium at Berthoud High. In a previous meeting on April 15, Piccone presented the plan to the board and offered the district’s recommendation for approval.
As part of the bond measure approved in November 2018, funding was available and plans were made to install a new track at BHS as well as replace the lighting support poles. The district had initially planned to also replace the irrigation system under the natural grass field but, since a contract had been made to install the synthetic turf Ray Patterson Field in Loveland, it was prudent and cost-effective to install the same turf at Max Marr.
Synthetic turf is more expensive than natural grass upfront but as it does not require watering, mowing and other maintenance, it is a long-term cost-saver. Piccone said the cost would be $750,000; $200,000 of which is already approved from the bond, $400,000 from the district’s contingency fund and $100,000 to $150,000 from the capital projects fund.
BHS Assistant Principal/Athletic Director Michael DeWall spoke with the Surveyor Thursday and was very pleased with the board’s decision to approve the installation of the synthetic turf alongside the new track and light poles. DeWall said he will work with the design team as the plans are finalized to have the Spartan logo and maroon accents on the new turf and a groundbreaking ceremony will be held soon.
“This is a big project not just for us but for the whole Berthoud community and it really is something to celebrate when the time is right,” DeWall said. “Not only will all of our athletes benefit but our P.E. classes, our marching band, cheer, but also, because the wear and tear isn’t as severe, we can open it up to community use.” DeWall joked the field will no longer be available for dog walkers but youth leagues will be able to make use of the field as well.
“I’m really appreciative of the work the district folks have done, Todd (Piccone) and Kevin Clark have been great through this whole process and it wouldn’t be happening without their and their staffs’ hard work,” DeWall said. The new turf is expected to be completed this summer and ready for use come the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in late August.
The next meeting of the TSD Board of Education will take place May 20.
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