An update to the Superior School District’s COVID-19 Response Plan will prohibit community groups with attendees from outside Douglas County from renting district facilities.

The change was made following the Superior School Board’s Tuesday, Sept. 8, Committee of the Whole meeting. Facility rentals to non-school sponsored groups will be available to residents of Douglas County only.

Organizations that qualify for rentals must also submit a plan detailing how they will follow district COVID-19 guidelines. If the group does not meet the expectations, the district could terminate the contract and restrict further rentals.

The changes followed a lengthy discussion about safe facilities use during the pandemic. Board members stressed that their top priority was the students in the district.

Free meals

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The board was also informed that the district is again offering free meals to all children age 18 and under. The move comes after the United States Department of Agriculture announced Aug. 31 that it would provide flexibility in the school meals plan. The free meals will continue through Dec. 31 or until funding runs out.

For students in school buildings, that means both breakfast and lunch are free, regardless of the student’s free, reduced or paid lunch status. After-school meals will also be available, but only for students who attended in-school classes that day.

Virtual and hybrid students, as well as any family with children, can pick up free meals from 9:30-10:15 a.m. Monday through Friday at Superior High School. The meals are available to all children age 18 and under in the community.

The district expects to return to charging for school meals after Dec. 31, or when funding runs out. Families are encouraged to apply to see if they qualify for free and reduced meals. The application is available online.

Inclusive policy change

In alignment with the Superior School District’s mission of inclusion, "All means all," the school board is poised to pay all advanced placement (AP) course fees for students. The policy change was introduced at Tuesday’s meeting and was advanced to the Monday, Sept. 14, board meeting for final approval.

“We know that research shows that students who take AP courses, regardless of the score they receive on their exam, are more prepared for college courses because of the rigorous exposure to that AP curriculum,” said board member Laura Gapske.

In the past, the district only refunded course costs to students who score a three or higher on the final test. Families would pay the $94 test fee in the fall and be reimbursed in the spring. Removing the fee encourages more students to take AP courses by removing barriers.

“Very easily a barrier is coming up with the initial money to pay for that assessment in the first place,” said Kate Tesch, director of continuous improvement and assessment.

In the 2019-20 school year, 267 students took a total of 347 AP courses, roughly 20% of the school population. This year’s numbers rose by more than 100. When students registered for classes in February, 396 students signed up to take 483 classes.

“We think that’s because we were really intentional about talking to kids and explaining to them the importance of these classes and also trying to remove these barriers of why they maybe aren’t signing up in the first place,” said AP coordinator Heidi Sigfrids. “Now it’s just more about moving forward, what makes sense about how to support those kids in these classes.”