Superintendent's Blog

  • "Test to Stay," Road Closure, and Food Service Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 9/16/2021 4:01:00 PM

    As previously communicated, the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD) issued two emergency orders on September 2, 2021, regarding Covid-19. The first, Ingham2021-2, was a mandatory mask requirement applicable to all indoor educational settings. The second, Ingham2021-3, outlined Covid-19 quarantine requirements as well as a new “Test to Stay” program. Details regarding quarantine and the voluntary testing program are summarized below:

     Close Contacts and Quarantining: 

     A close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of someone who has Covid-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. In an indoor environment when masks are worn, unvaccinated students who are within 3-6 feet can continue in class and should monitor symptoms. Only those who are unvaccinated and within 3 feet must follow quarantine and optional testing protocols. When a student tests positive, all close contact exposures should immediately be reported to the building principal. The school will also initiate contact tracing and report those results to the ICHD.

     If a close contact is not fully vaccinated for Covid-19 and is within 3 feet of the positive individual, they have 3 options. These options include: 

    • Quarantine for 10 days (or) 
    • Quarantine for 7 days, take a rapid or PCR Covid-19 test on the morning of day 7, and return to class after a negative result is reported (or) 
    • Opt-in to a serial testing (Test to Stay) program to avoid quarantine. Testing must be administered by an identified representative from a PreK-12 organization each morning prior to building entry and must occur on days 2, 3, 4, 5, and again on day 7 from the exposure date to the Covid-19 positive individual. Parents will need to consent to their child(ren) being tested unless they are 18 years of age and able to consent for themselves. More on the Test to Stay option below*

    If a close contact has been fully vaccinated and has no symptoms, they can continue in class on days 1 and 2 after exposure. A rapid test is recommended on either day 3, 4, or 5. If the rapid test result is negative, they continue in class. If the rapid test result is positive, they will need to isolate and work with the principal to determine a return date. 

    If a fully vaccinated close contact is exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19, they will need to quarantine and immediately take a rapid test. If that rapid test result is negative and symptoms have improved, they can continue in class. If that result is positive, they will need to isolate and work with the principal to determine a return date. 

     Test to Stay:

     *Beginning on Monday, September 20, the WCS “Test to Stay” option will be held Monday - Friday on days the District is open, from 7:15 - 7:50 in the Middle School gymnasium. Students who are in quarantine and their parent(s) will enter the gymnasium through Door # 10 located at the back of the building. Students must have parental permission to participate in this program unless they are 18 or older. Participation includes signing a permission form at the testing site. Test results are typically available 15-20 minutes after the test is administered.

    As part of the contact tracing process, schools will inform families of the known exposure date. It is important to have the exposure date when participating in the Test to Stay program. Students or staff will be able to attend classes and co-curricular activities for the entire day after receiving a negative rapid test result. This process will take place on days 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7 after the exposure date. It is important that students do not utilize district transportation or enter a school building until they receive a negative test result at the testing site for each applicable day of the Test to Stay program. If day 7 falls on a weekend, students must test negative the following Monday morning. Students participating in co-curricular activities will have an opportunity to test on the weekends, details will be provided by the athletic department, coach, or faculty advisor. 

    The Test to Stay program provides families an opportunity to return to school instead of quarantining. However, it requires independent transportation to the testing location the morning of each applicable day and parental permission to participate.

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    Putnam Road Closure:

    Beginning Monday, September 20, South Putnam Street will be closed to traffic at the railroad crossing. The closure is anticipated to last through October 4. The posted detour route will direct local traffic to Zimmer Road by way of Grand River Avenue to the north or Linn Road to the south. 

    The closure will affect certain bus routes, potentially causing delays.  Additional details, if applicable to your child’s bus route, will be communicated by the bus driver.

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    Food Service Supply Chain Issue:

    Due to significant shortages in the supply chain, food service departments across the country are struggling to fill orders for school breakfast and lunch products. The shortage issues are affecting our District as well, resulting in short notice menu changes and a reduction in meal options. The shortage also applies to items like trays and utensils. As it is challenging to predict menus into the future, Nutrislice is not being populated at this time. The food service department will bring Nutrislice back online once the shortage issue is resolved and menus can be predicted with more certainty. Thank you for your patience as our team works to find solutions to this national-level situation.

    Students at Williamston High School during lunchtime, outside in the courtyard:

    WHS Lunch outside, 2021

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  • Welcoming Back Our Students

    Posted by Adam Spina on 9/2/2021 5:15:00 PM

    We are thrilled to have our students return to school and the new level of energy that has brought to all the buildings. It has been wonderful to observe relationships developing as students settle into their classrooms, get to know their teachers, and reconnect with peers. These are all reminders of the importance of in-person learning environments.  

    There are inevitably adjustments that need to be made as processes are observed and routines are established. This year is no exception. Some notable examples thus far include:

    • Establishing a third lunch period with assigned tables at the high school and middle school to promote increased social distancing
    • Adding sections of high school courses to accommodate student requests
    • Revamping the walker Welcome Station at the elementary campus
    • Refining the car loop drop off and pick up process at the elementary campus
    • Adding an additional regular bus route

    I appreciate the great initiative from staff and feedback from parents with these and other modifications implemented over the past two weeks. Our systems are continuously improving and allowing for a more efficient and productive school day across the District. 

    _____________________  

    Mandatory Covid-19 related isolation and quarantine requirements are likely to keep some students out of in-person instruction for periods of time this year. All district schools have developed response and support plans for students in these temporary situations. The first step will typically be instructional materials distribution to include signing out hotspots and/or Chromebooks if needed. Buildings will utilize asynchronous instructional videos in conjunction with See-Saw or Google Classroom. Note, at the elementary level, these platforms are in the process of being established with students and families. There might be a short delay for some grade levels until they are up and running. In the meantime, alternative options will be available and communicated.

    Depending on the school and subject, additional supports might be available such as remote individual or small group meetings with teachers  These opportunities will be detailed in school-level communications and as part of the notification process in the event a student is quarantined. As with all things Covid related, support plans and quarantine requirements are subject to change. 

    Wishing you a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend. Classes will resume on Tuesday, September 7th.

    Aerial view of the elementary campus:

    Aerial view of the elementary campus

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  • Celebrating The New School Year

    Posted by Adam Spina on 8/19/2021 4:05:00 PM

    On behalf of the staff of Williamston Community Schools, I welcome our students, parents, and community to the 2021-2022 school year!  

    It is a celebration to return our students to full-day, in-person instruction. This has been a long and challenging journey. We are elated to support all students in the ways we know are most impactful and beneficial. While it is likely we will face more challenges and difficult decisions, our goal remains to keep all students in school, in person. We appreciate your ongoing patience, understanding, and support.

    An immense amount of hard work has been put into the start of this school year. I would like to publicly recognize our incredible staff, who demonstrate a commitment to excellence in all their endeavors. We have a great team of educators at WCS and I continue to be impressed each day by their dedication to students and selfless service to our community.

    Much was accomplished over the summer months. Significant projects were completed, such as replacing large sections of the roof at the high school, resurfacing the tennis court facility, and renovating a research laboratory. The majority of interior spaces across the District have been repainted over the last two years. Other aesthetic enhancements include new flooring, landscaping, and updated lighting in many locations. These renovations provide learning environments that reflect the community’s high expectations for our schools.

    The foundation of the Hornet Statue at the entrance of Williamston High School was rebuilt over the summer:

    Hornet Statue

    Over 20 new instructional staff members joined WCS throughout the summer. Many of these educators bring with them extensive experience, a testament to Williamston’s ability to attract talented professionals. 

    New Instructional Staff, 2021: Madison Battle – Teacher, Abby Black – Teacher, Mary Bottles - Assistant Teacher, Grace Casper - Assistant Director of Childcare, Kelly Chase - Assistant Teacher, Erin Chomas – Teacher, Emily Cleland – Teacher, Cassandra Eberhardt – Teacher, Colleen Feeney - Social Worker, Rebecca Grabowski - Preschool Lead Teacher, Colleen Granger – Teacher, Caroline Hart - Kids’ Corner Office Manager, Andrew Keyes - Childcare Provider, Bailee Lawrence - Speech and Language Pathologist, Colleen Lierman – Teacher, Rachel Luedtke - Attendance Secretary, Samantha Morris - Preschool Lead Teacher, Kimber Peterson – Teacher, Kari Radzwion - School Psychologist, Kennadee Semans - Social Worker, Ronald Stauffer - Para-Professional, Lauren Van Slambrook – Teacher, Colby Whitaker - Assistant Teacher, and Jordan Williams – Teacher

    WCS new staff at Opening Day, 2021:

    New Staff 2021

    While WCS will continue to prioritize academics, we understand that supporting the “whole child” will be more important than ever this year. Consequently, we have added special education staff, additional intervention programming, and each school will have its own full-time School Social Worker. Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) will continue to be integrated into the daily school experience to include ongoing student support initiatives such as Peer Assistance Leaders (PALS), Second Step, and Be Nice. More information on the District Improvement Plan can be found under the “Our District” tab on the District Homepage or at the link here. Details on building specific focus areas can be found within School Improvement Plans, located under the “Academics” tab on their school homepage.

    Despite the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic, I know we will overcome any new challenges and partner as a community to make this a great year of school for Williamston students. Wishing you the very best as we celebrate reopening our schools. 

    Students in PALS and Student Government at Williamston Middle School welcome peers back by participating in a “Chalk the Walk” activity:

    Chalk the Walk, 2021

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  • August/September District Podcast

    Posted by Adam Spina on 8/12/2021 8:15:00 AM

    Listen to the District Podcast here.

    The Podcast can also be accessed at the following links:

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  • Covid Mitigation District Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 8/5/2021 5:01:00 PM

    We are heading into the final stretch with our preparations for the 2021-2022 school year. As part of this process, the District developed updated Covid-19 mitigation plans. These are outlined below and include an FAQ section. Note -- these plans could change at any time based on new public health orders from the CDC, MDHHS, or ICHD. WCS will continue to follow rules for athletics as determined by MDHHS and MHSAA. 

    Williamston will start the school year using a layered Covid-19 mitigation plan, based on recommendations set forth by MDHHS. The concept below has been reviewed by the ICHD. Additionally, after a parent survey and collaboration with the district leadership team, our Kids’ Camp program successfully piloted the mitigation plan this summer. The measures listed in the chart below are not exhaustive and several current or potential future mitigation options are not featured.

    Layered Mitigation Plan as of August 5, 2021

    The Layered Mitigation Plan adds or subtracts mitigation measures based on positivity rates and/or transmission levels in our community. Assuming our community Covid-19 rates stay at or about the current level, we will begin the school year in the “Low/Negligible” or “Green” column. In this category, mitigation measures will include frequent hand washing, enhanced cleaning and air filtration, as well as the continued use of daily health screenings. Masks / face coverings will be required for all staff and students while riding in school buses; aligning with current CDC mass transportation orders. Masks / face coverings are recommended for all students, vaccinated staff, and visitors while indoors at district facilities. Masks will be required of unvaccinated staff when indoors in an instructional setting. If Covid-19 rates increase in our community, or if there are associated cases in our schools, additional mitigation measures may be added if appropriate. 

    As masks / face coverings are a controversial topic, I want to be clear that there is a likelihood that during certain periods throughout the year, masks for students could be required. This is especially true for students in grade levels who are not yet eligible for Covid-19 vaccinations. We all know that the situation with Covid-19 can change rapidly, and masks will be required when circumstances dictate. Masks could also be required by a local or state health department order. Changes will be communicated by school, department, or district leadership, depending on applicable circumstances.

    It is also important to emphasize that masking reduces the chances of a required quarantine in the event of close contact with a Covid-19 positive individual. Current ICHD quarantine requirements mandate a ten (10) day quarantine within three (3) feet for a cumulative period of 15 minutes or more for unvaccinated students or staff wearing a mask. For unvaccinated students or staff not wearing a mask, the distance expands to six (6) feet. As of now, the quarantine period can be reduced to as little as eight (8) days with a negative PCR test, conducted no sooner than seven (7) days after the potential exposure. Therefore, wearing a mask can reduce time away from school due to mandatory quarantine requirements for unvaccinated individuals. More information on how the quarantine process works is listed in the FAQ section below.

    Additional 2021-2022 School Year Information

    Will a remote option be available?

    A remote option will be available to students who are medically fragile and for whom contracting Covid-19 could put them at greater risk for severe illness. A remote option will also be considered for students with immediate family members who reside in their household for whom contracting Covid could result in a serious medical condition. The remote option will be provided by Virtual Online Academic Consortium (VLAC) and not by Williamston teachers. However, students enrolled in VLAC remain Williamston students and can continue to participate in Williamston co-curricular activities and other events. Limited VLAC spaces are available. To apply, provide a note from a medical provider along with any additional details to your child’s school. You will be contacted as soon as possible with a confirmation if there is a VLAC seat available. If space is available, the commitment to VLAC is for the entire 2021-2022 school year. If your child is eligible for VLAC, please carefully review the materials here before applying.

    Are masks / face coverings required at school?

    As of now, masks / face coverings are only required when utilizing district transportation. They may be required when indoors, based on community positivity rates or confirmed school-associated cases. Masks might also be required by health department order. In keeping with health department guidance, WCS currently recommends all staff, students, and visitors wear masks when indoors in instructional settings.

    Will students be in cohorts?

    Students will not be cohorted unless community transmission/positivity rates require that level of mitigation. 

    Will contact tracing continue?

    Like all other school districts, WCS is required to report instances of communicable diseases to their local health department within 24 hours. Positive or probable school-associated Covid-19 cases will be reported to the Ingham County Health Department (ICHD).

    Are eligible students required to be vaccinated to attend in-person classes?

    No.

    Will students/staff be required to quarantine?

    A common misconception is that WCS decides when/if students and staff need to quarantine. In fact, the ICHD makes that determination based on contact tracing completed by the school. Unvaccinated students and staff may be required to quarantine based on distance and cumulative time in close proximity to an individual with Covid-19. Students and staff who are fully vaccinated will not be required to quarantine under current CDC guidelines unless they test positive. Fully vaccinated individuals are now being advised to take a precautionary PCR test 3-5 days after a known exposure, and wear a mask for 14 days from the date of the exposure. If positive, people who are vaccinated must isolate for ten days. 

    Wearing a mask / face covering decreases the likelihood of an unvaccinated person having to quarantine by expanding the minimum distance from an individual with Covid-19 during the contact tracing process. Thus, wearing a mask reduces the chances students will miss school and co-curricular activities due to mandatory quarantine. 

    Will student athletes be required to test for Covid-19 in order to participate?

    At this time, there is no MDHHS or MHSAA requirement to test in order to participate in athletics. 

    What will open house look like this year? 

    The open house format at the Discovery and Explorer Elementary Schools will be revised this year to better ensure the safety of our students, staff, and families. Students entering Kindergarten and students new to the District will have the option to attend an in-person open house. Returning elementary students will have the opportunity to meet their teacher through a remote session. This format will significantly reduce crowds in the elementary buildings prior to the start of school in keeping with the mitigation plan. More information will be communicated by the elementary schools next week. The middle and high school open houses will proceed as scheduled/previously communicated. 

    Additional details and school-specific information regarding the upcoming year will be forthcoming. Information on the 2021-2022 District Calendar can be located on the WCS website or at the link here. A reminder that August 23 will be the first day of school this year.

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  • Early Summer District Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 6/30/2021 10:15:00 AM

    WCS remains committed to open all district schools and facilities for full-time in-person instruction and co-curricular activities in August. Our technology, custodial, and maintenance teams are busy preparing the buildings with this goal in mind. As this important work takes place, we are continuing to monitor developments with Covid-19 and review corresponding publications from the CDC and MDHHS. More information on Covid-19 mitigation plans will be forthcoming later this summer.

    Despite the weather, scheduled summer improvement projects have commenced. Highlights include the construction of a new research laboratory and new roofing at Williamston High School and the resurfacing of the WCS tennis court facility. More information on projected summer facility improvements can be found here.

    We welcomed two new members to our leadership team this week. Sarah Tynan, CPA  is the District’s new Director of Finance. Sarah previously worked for Plante Moran, specializing in tax accounting for both construction and manufacturing and distribution clients. James Doyen, who has worked in Williamston as both a technician and technology support specialist, was promoted to the position of Supervisor of Technology. Sarah and James join a strong administrative team that will return all of its instructional leaders for the 2021-2022 school year. Learn more about the members of the WCS administrative team here.

    Finally, a reminder that the summer food distribution program is running every Tuesday from 12:00 - 2:00 pm at Williamston High School. Meal packages include seven breakfasts and lunches, as well as two half-gallons of milk. Meals are free to any child age 18 and younger or any student receiving special education services up to age 26. More information can be found on the WCS website or at the link here.

    Thank you WCS Food Service!

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  • May/June Podcast

    Posted by Adam Spina on 6/16/2021 7:51:00 PM

    Listen to the District Podcast here.

    The Podcast can also be accessed at the following links:

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  • We Made It!

    Posted by Adam Spina on 6/9/2021 4:47:00 PM

    Last August I was stationed in Southern California, extremely frustrated I could not be here during what was certainly one of the most trying periods in the history of our District. Fast forward to this past Sunday. I had the privilege of congratulating 148 Seniors at their graduation ceremony on a beautiful Sunday afternoon back home in Williamston. What a wild ride it has been.  

    As we conclude this most challenging year of school for our students, parents, and staff, we can be assured that collectively we did everything in our power to provide the best educational experience possible. More importantly, we did so safely. I am extremely grateful for the assistance afforded to us so we could accomplish that goal.

    While our students are away for the summer, the work to support them goes on. Curriculum refinements, facility improvements, building maintenance, technology enhancements, and additional planning for the fall commence Monday. Please continue to review important updates sent from your child’s school as well as periodic updates from the District. I hope to see you around town this summer and look forward to welcoming our students and community members back to our schools in the fall. 

    The graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021:

    Graduation 2021

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    Honoring Our Retirees

    We have the bittersweet task of saying goodbye to a remarkable group of educators who will be retiring after a combined 206 years of service to the Williamston Community. Spanning a wide variety of roles within the District, these team members made numerous lasting contributions to our schools and community while being positive difference-makers in the lives of thousands of students. We will miss them.

    Thank you and congratulations to:

    Dan Brooks: 36 years

    Tara Brooks: 35 years

    Kristi Davidson: 24 years

    Lori Doyle: 16 years

    Janet Eidt: 41 years

    Nancy Hamlin: 26 years

    Heather Lounsbury: 21 years

    Debbie Shipman: 7 years

    Service plaques on display during the open house event honoring 2021 and 2020 district retirees:

    Retirement Open House 2021

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  • Celebrating the Class of 2021 and the 2021-2022 District Calendar

    Posted by Adam Spina on 6/3/2021 9:15:00 AM

    Class of 2021:

    I invite our community to join me in congratulating the Class of 2021 on their graduation from Williamston High School. This weekend, 148 students will walk across the stage representing a vast array of individual and collective accomplishments. They are students with unlimited potential who will contribute greatly to society as they continue their educational and professional journeys. They overcame challenges that previous WCS graduates have not encountered as a result of the pandemic. These students learned and exemplified resilience, flexibility, and perseverance. They are a graduating class for the record books and the history books.

    Class of 2021

    Graduation is Sunday, June 6 at 2:00 pm. It will take place at Williamston’s Larkin Nortman Field. Community members can view the live stream of the graduation on the WCS YouTube page or by accessing the link here.

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    2021-2022 District Calendar:


    The calendar agreed to by the Williamston Education Association and the Board of Education was published earlier this week. Besides the update to spring break per the Ingham County Common Calendar (announced last year), the calendar takes into account several recommendations from the Community Calendar Work Group. The work group consisted of parents, teachers, support staff, administrators, and school board representation. Members participated in a series of meetings during the winter of 2020. The committee was tasked with exploring options for the school calendar based on community feedback and emerging best practices. Recommendations from the committee are included in the final edition of the 2021-2022 calendar. One is an earlier start date in August which reduces the impact of the academic “summer slide” for many students. The calendar also features more intermittent extended weekends throughout the year. These short breaks have been identified as important to students and staff for rest/recovery and/or mental health reasons. The 2021-2022 calendar can be found on the district website under the “Calendar” tab or at the link here.

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  • Sinking Fund Update

    Posted by Adam Spina on 5/20/2021 8:01:00 AM

    WCS pledged to maintain transparency with expenditures associated with the District Sinking Fund when it was approved by voters in August of 2018. Below is a summary of significant projects in which the fund was utilized as well as a preview of upcoming facility improvements.

    2019:

    Secure Entrance Construction at Williamston High School: $235,000

    Transportation Department Parking Lot Repaving: $90,000

    Advanced Entrance Control System: $40,000

    Boiler and Chiller Replacement and Repairs: $50,000

     

    The secure entrance project at Williamston High School underway, summer of 2019:

    High School Secure Entrance Construction, 2019

    2020:

    Explorer Elementary Roof Replacement: $390,000

    Williamston Middle School Gym Roof Replacement: $80,000

     

    The roof at Explorer Elementary being replaced, summer of 2020:

    Explorer Roof Replacement, 2020

    Upcoming Sinking Fund Expenditures, Summer of 2021:

    Roof repairs/replacement at Williamston High School: $185,000

    Tennis Court Resurfacing: $56,000

    Student Chromebook Replacement: $24,000

     

    One of the primary goals of the Sinking Fund was the redesign of building entrances, ensuring a more secure environment for students and staff during the school day. In order to maximize available funding for the potential completion of those projects during the summer of 2022, the District is transferring an additional $50,000 from the 2021 budget to the following year. Bids for the final buildings needing secured entrances will be completed this summer with the goal of construction taking place during the summer of 2022. A final determination on the timeline for those projects will be made by the Board of Education once the bid results have been received. 


    Community members can view additional photos of Sinking Fund-related projects as well as actual and projected annual budgets by accessing the Sinking Fund webpage under the “Our District” tab on the District Website. If there are any questions regarding the Sinking Fund, please feel free to contact me. WCS remains extremely grateful for the support of the community regarding this invaluable resource.

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    Williamston High School Presents: Dear Edwina, the hilarious and heartwarming story of an ambitious girl.  The show centers on Edwina Spoonapple and her friends as they put on an advice-giving show in her garage.  Fun for all ages, the show streams on May 28th and 29th.  Click here to purchase tickets and watch the show.

    High School Musical: Dear Edwina

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Executive Assistant

Phone: (517) 655-4361

Email:

Degrees and Certifications:

Mrs. Betsy Rueckert