RIVER FALLS — School administration will have another week to come up with options that would allow band and choir sections to practice undivided without easing the 13-foot distancing rule recommended by the health department amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
River Falls School Board discussed the topic for more than an hour at Monday night’s special meeting, ultimately deciding to delay a vote at the request of Superintendent Jamie Benson.
Currently 19 sections of grade 6-12 band and choir are able to comply with the 13-foot distancing rule, but 14 can’t without being split up, Benson said. Though sharing high school auditorium space would resolve six of those conflicts, there was no clear solution for the remaining eight sections of sixth and eighth graders.
Potential options could entail utilizing gymnasiums or the old middle school gymnastics space, but there would likely be scheduling problems, Benson said. He told the board there is no guarantee a solution will be reached by next Monday’s meeting.
School Board president Stacy Johnson Myers recognized the importance of music programs for students, but said she preferred to err on the side of safety.
“If I’m going to make a mistake, I would rather make a mistake right now on the side of caution,” she said.
A group of band and choir teachers presented the idea of easing distancing requirements at the Oct. 26 School Board meeting, warning of mass withdrawal from the programs by dissatisfied students. The 13-foot rule also means students can be more easily heard above the group, causing some to feel insecure about performing.
Some board members framed the discussion as an issue of equity with athletics, which were allowed to proceed this fall with added safety measures and other rules to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Fewer than 20 students in the district have tested positive for COVID-19 and/or returned to school as of Nov. 2, the district reported. There were 21 students out due to COVID-19 symptoms and 161 out due to being a close contact.
Pierce County had 845 confirmed cases and 239 suspected cases as of Monday, according to the county health department. Public health staff were not able to contact all identified close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case within 24 hours.