School board recap: WAPS proposal calls for student safety coaches in elementary schools

School Board Meeting Recap

Winona Area Public Schools plans to add student safety coaches at its three elementary school buildings as part of a proposed safety plan for the 2020-21 school year. 

The plan, which was presented by Superintendent Dr. Annette K. Freiheit at the school board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 20, was developed as part of a resolution by the board in terminating a contract with the City of Winona to provide a school resource officer. 

The plan (linked here) will also transition the safety specialists currently employed at Winona Senior High School, Winona Middle School and the Winona Area Learning Center into student safety coaches. 

The proposed job duties of a student safety coach include developing positive relationships with students and families, providing support to increase educational equity, promoting and reinforcing positive student behavior and providing active supervision in common areas. 

The coaches will receive professional development in de-escalation strategies, CPI, trauma informed practices, mental health support and implicit bias and anti-discrimination training. The would also temporarily assist health secretaries and school nurses with isolation rooms for possible health/COVID-19 related support this school year. 

“The key thing to all of this is the training and professional development for our student safety staff,” Freiheit said.

The approximate cost of each student safety coach at the elementary level is between $36,481 and $45,246. The proposal calls for the $88,000 the district previously paid to the City of Winona for the school resource officer to pay for the student safety coaches. Salary costs above that amount would be taken out of the general fund.

The safety plan also calls for continued collaboration with the Winona Police Department, Winona County Sheriff's Department and Winona County Emergency Management to support building level crisis plans. It also calls for continued staffing of safety and behavioral educational assistants at the elementary schools. 

The school board unanimously approved a resolution in June to remove the school resource officer from the building after the public overwhelmingly supported the move. Several people, including students and families of color, said a police presence in the schools made them feel less safe in the high school. 

The proposal will be voted on at an upcoming school board meeting. 

Out of School Suspensions Report

As part of an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, WAPS has to submit a Semi-Annual Out of School Suspension Report. 

The report (linked here), presented to the board Thursday night, indicated that out of school suspensions were down compared to 2018-19, even taking into consideration that WAPS was in distance learning from March 31 through June 5.

A total of 38 out of school suspensions were issued to 19 individuals in the 2019-2020 school year. In 2018-19, that number was 117 suspensions for 88 individuals. 

“We are making progress,” Freiheit said. 

Some of the reasons attributed by site teams for the reduction of suspensions included implementation of PBIS at the elementary level, Second Step SEL curriculum at the middle school level, overall student support programming at the high school and implementation of restorative practices and restorative circles at the Winona Area Learning Center.

This year, school administrators plan to revise the student code of conduct and student discipline protocols and processes.

School Calendar Altered

The board approved a small change to the 2020-21 academic calendar necessitated by a hybrid learning model for the 2020-21 school year. 

The first day of school for all students will be Tuesday, Sept. 8. Because all levels will begin in a hybrid model, Group A students will report to school on that day, while Group B and distance learning only students will learn from home. The first day of in-school learning for Group B will be Thursday, Sept. 10. 

The 2020-21 academic calendar can be seen here.

In previous years, the first day of school at the middle school and high school were reserved for orientation activities for the fifth-graders and ninth-graders, respectively. Those programs (WEB in the middle school and LINK in the high school) will continue this year, however they may have to be done virtually or later in the school year.

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