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Kelso School Board reviews sex education, foster care and absences polices

Students back in classrooms (copy)

Wallace Elementary School second-graders work on Chromebooks during the first day of hybrid in-person instruction in September 2020.

At Monday night’s Kelso School Board meeting, the board heard early testing is showing a negative effect on math and reading scores, mostly among students in lower grades.

The board also heard a report on technology. “When we were faced with the pandemic and had to do a quick shift, all eyes ended up on technology,” Tech Integration Specialist Brenda Sargent said.

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Pre-pandemic, the district mostly had laptop carts for students to share. Now the district has 2,200 Chromebooks for elementary school students, 2,600 Chromebooks for secondary students and about 550 Windows computers, said Information Technology Systems Manager Cody Reid.

The district continues to offer Wi-Fi in certain parking lots, and has ramped up its online safety monitoring.

Two programs got large donations after the board approved the gifts. The board is required to approve any donation larger than $5,000.

The Kelso High School CTE Program received a grant through the Price Foundation for about $14,400 to buy Real Care Babies and other supplies for the Family and Consumer Sciences classes. Each baby costs about $1,000.

Girls and boys soccer teams will have a more comfortable time on the sidelines as well, after the Kelso Soccer Boosters spent $5,400 for a portable shelter to protect athletes from the weather.

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In other business, the board passed two policies, one on the Learning Assistance Program and one on grading and progress reports.

The Learning Assistance Program policy updated language and added a section about expanding the program in response to COVID-19. The revision to the grading and progress reports policy removes a section that allowed the district to withhold a student’s grade report if the student had outstanding debt for school property that had been lost or willfully damaged.

The board also heard first readings on four polices: Sexual health education, students in foster care, excused and unexcused absences, and prohibiting sexual harassment of district staff.

The sexual health education draft revisions updates language prompted by the new state law. The board asked several questions about how parents can access materials.

Instruction in social and emotional learning will be provided at least once in kindergarten through third grade. Comprehensive sexual health education will be provided at least once in fourth and fifth grades, at least twice in sixth and seventh grades and at least twice in ninth through 12th grades under the draft policy.

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The updated policy also updates the section giving parents and guardians the opportunity to review the materials via electronic access, that the district will provide information on excluding children from sexual health education instruction and that the district will grant all such requests.

The students in foster care and the policy prohibiting sexual harassment of district staff drafts have small updates to language based on the new state law.

Changes to the excused and unexcused absences policy include increasing the number of unexcused absences in a month that prompts district action from five to seven. Director of Student Services Don Iverson said the changes came from the state and are intended to provide more chances for students before going to truancy charges.

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