The Crane School District governing board convened for its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening.

The board is slated to reconvene for a special meeting Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. to discuss the possibility of returning district schools to in-person instruction.

According to Superintendent Laurie Doering, based on Yuma County’s continued substantial transmission of COVID-19 – as tracked on the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) schools data dashboard, accessible at www.azdhs.gov/covid19 – it’s in the district community’s best interest to continue teaching and learning in a virtual environment.

While still too high to safely return to in-person learning at this time, metrics appear to be trending downward in terms of cases per 100,000 residents. The state’s most recent data set shows that for the week of Dec. 20, Yuma County had a rate of 698 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents – a notable decline from the previous week’s metrics, which report a rate of 1,090 positive cases per 100,000 residents.

“Of the three metrics (cases per 100,000 residents, percentage of positive cases and percentage of hospital visits for COVID-like illness), this metric is the most relevant and pertinent to our decision making,” Doering said.

Doering said the prioritization of educators in the current phase of COVID-19 vaccinations delivers “promising news,” as “this vaccine is a positive step in providing some normalcy to our schools’ functions.”

While the district remains in a remote learning environment at the direction of ADHS, schools will continue to provide on-site support services to students in need of them, Doering added.

“I am acutely aware that this time has been fraught with anxiety and uncertainty for our students, their families and our staff,” she said. “I want to be clear that every decision we make is given extreme consideration. We weigh multiple factors and recommendations from a variety of stakeholders. There’s no easy answer, but we’re doing everything that we can for our learning community.”

ELECTION OF OFFICERS

The governing board elected members Jim Colby and Dan Farar to serve as president and clerk, respectively, for the new year.

As a re-elected member this term, Colby joined incoming board members Marcos Moore and Carol Smith in being formally sworn into office by Yuma County School Superintendent Tom Tyree.

“Your service as board members...is absolutely one of the highest forms of service that anyone can perform,” Tyree said. “It is absolutely essential that we have people serve in this capacity, because they are so integral to the education of our students.”

Moore and Smith are slated to serve four-year terms.

‘LEADERS IN NUTRITION’

When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered Yuma County schools March 16, 2020, Crane School District’s student nutrition department stepped up to the plate, nutrition director Michael Clark said.

While district schools remained in a virtual learning environment for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, Clark and his 48-person team provided daily curbside meal services to 6,000 students at 10 school sites. These sites continued to operate throughout the summer months, with some modifications as needed.

According to Clark, last school year the district nutrition department served 529,165 breakfasts, 955,687 lunches and 124,462 enhanced snacks – a collective sum upwards of 1.6 million meals. Since March, more than 650,000 meals have been served, Clark said.

“One of the positive outcomes from the pandemic has been the increase in breakfast meal participation,” Clark said, noting that participation is up 26% from last January, when 60% of students were participating in the district’s breakfast program.

“This is substantial; it’s a benchmark for us that we’re seeing over half of our students taking a breakfast in the morning to start their day,” Clark said.

Additionally, according to Clark, 70% of the fresh produce found in students’ grab-and-go meal packages each day is locally grown.

“By virtue of living where we do, it’s easy for us to provide a high volume of locally sourced produce,” he said. “It’s a point of pride to be able to show support for our farming community.”

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