Superintendent of Schools Fred Dierksen updated the Board of Education at the Feb. 22 Unified School District 443 Board of Education meeting, on the current state of USD 443 following the events of last week, where school was cancelled for three day due to the city power grid being affected by the severe inclement weather.
“Never in my career have I received a phone call from a utility company, asking not to have school and I did last week for two days,” said Dierksen. “It’s a no-brainer when you hear that the packing plants were shutting down too and the nation was needing to do it too, it wasn’t just Kansas.”
While there are financial considerations that are subject to update as information becomes more available, Dierksen said that to the best of his knowledge and after applying for a waiver from the state, USD 443 can afford to call off school for essentially three more days.
Beyond that, calling off school for a “professional development day” as opposed to a “snow day,” can afford USD 443 more legal ways to cancel school with minimal issues.
Damages to USD 443 property due to the severe cold weather last week included frozen meters at the distribution center and bus barn.
The District Learning Center did lose primary power, including it’s backup generator.
Another water meter in a relatively “unknown location” in a closet in the academic wing of Dodge City High School, that feeds the irrigation system to the whole school, was in danger of freezing.
Fortunately, an alarm system attached to that water meter alerted maintenance staff during the night last week, where they intervened.
“Other than that, I think we escaped a lot of seriousness in that whole situation,” said Dierksen.
He added that USD 443 was led to believe, after initial blackouts that killed the power for four schools for a little over an hour, issues would persist worse but fortunately they did not suffer blackouts for Feb. 16-17.
According to Director of Safety and Security Shawn Lampe, as of Feb. 22, there is only one student and one staff member that are currently COVID-19 positive.
Lampe added that quarantine numbers are down and more students and staff are in school.
“Vaccinations have been a big issue and all I can tell you is that when they get the vaccine, they are putting them in arms,” said Lampe in regards to vaccination efforts. “So far our custodians, our transportation department, all of our bus drivers have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
USD 443 is not mandating that staff be vaccinated.
Staff 65 and older have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
Lampe said that he has a list of contact information for 130 people with preexisting health conditions throughout the school district and contacts them whenever Ford County Health Department has vaccinations are ready for them.
Lampe said Ford County Health Department has a limited amount of vaccine to give and is expecting another shipment this week.
“Everyone also needs to understand that when she [Angela Sowers] gets two hundred or five hundred vaccines or whatever it is , they’re not all earmarked for USD 443,” reminded Lampe.
The Board of Education then adjourned for executive session.