Outdoor venue not in cards for graduation

Thursday, July 16, 2020

McCOOK, Neb. —The McCook Board of Education was questioned Monday night as to the location of high school graduation.

TJ Renner, a McCook High School senior and the Student Council representative on the board, said he and other seniors, as well as some parents, were wondering why it the July 31 commencement couldn’t be at Weiland Field, an outdoor facility, instead of the Peter and Delores Graff Events Center. Seniors were allotted eight tickets each for the indoor event center, with capacity capped at 50% due to COVID-19 directed health measures (DHM).

The event center was chosen due to safety and weather-related issues, said Superintendent Grant Norgaard. If graduation was at Weiland Field and bad weather occurred, it would have to be moved to the event center, he said. There would be more people at Weiland Field and if filled up, more traffic and interaction. “We’d be walking the line, to get as many people as we can and still keep it safe,” he said.

MHS principal Jeff Gross said plans for graduation were made well in advance of current DHMs, not knowing what capacity would be allowed in July and that temperatures at an outdoor venue could be sweltering that time of year. “By 6 p.m., it’s unbearable,” he said.

Board president Tom Bredvick also pointed out safety concerns, saying he witnessed “about eight graduations ago” an elderly man miss one of the steps when walking down the stairs.

Jeff Gross said extra handrails have been installed so the field is not an unsafe place to attend but added that the safety of a large number of people, especially senior citizens during the pandemic, is a concern.

In other business, the board approved the student handbooks for McCook Elementary/Central Elementary and McCook Senior High/Junior High, as well as the student health document as an addition to the student handbooks.

Changes in the health document include those relating to COVID-19, such as when students can return to school after having a temperature. When conditions are identified as “elevated” by the public health department, a student with a temperature cannot return to school until 72 hours have passed. If the risk is assessed as “moderate,” the student can return after 24 hours have passed.

Board member Loretta Hauxwell asked that the district policy of communications between teachers and students be included in the senior high handbook in a summarized form. “I want to make sure that policy gets communicated to parents,” she said. According to the policy, students are not to contact teachers via text but by using the district’s program that can track communications. Hauxwell asked that it be included in the senior high handbook so parents can sign-off on it.

Tom Bredvick added that most kids will know about the new policy, but conceded there will be some who do not.

Other business at Monday night’s meeting included:

- Board member Brad Hays updated the board on the recent committee meeting on American Civics. Hays, the chairperson, said they reviewed materials taught in kindergarten through 12th grade that relate to civics and U.S. History, to make sure all requirements are met. Loretta Hauxwell asked about developing a “check-off” sheet for teachers, so it would be easier to find evidence of items taught. Superintendent Norgaard agreed that it would be easier to access materials that way and would be “solid evidence” if there were questions about how and if a certain topic was discussed. Board president Tom Bredvick commented there are a lot of areas that seem to require the documentation of “evidence-based processes.”

-Norgaard cited Darin Nichols, MHS activities director, who was recently recognized as the Region 5 Assistant principal of the year. Nichols supports assistant principal, Craig Dickes, at the high school.

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