Wahpeton schools exploring building, grounds issues

Wahpeton Public Schools, including Wahpeton High School, continues to adjust to new education and disinfecting protocol amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a unanimous vote Wednesday, Sept. 9, the Wahpeton School Board accepted the resignation of Mike Rittenour as district buildings and grounds supervisor.

Rittenour, who served the four-building district, served his last day Friday, Sept. 11. His departure comes as Wahpeton Public Schools continues to adjust to new education and disinfecting protocol amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district needs to hire a new buildings and grounds supervisor, Wahpeton Superintendent Rick Jacobson said. At the same time, it needs to consider what it can offer in terms of salary and the wider issue of attracting and retaining hourly employees.

“For whatever reason, we’re not getting them. We’re not getting anybody, let alone part time people,” Jacobson said. “We have struggled with attracting custodians. To get somebody to work the 2-10 p.m. shift, it’s not even on the radar.”

Board Directors Ginny Buck, Kathy Dimmer and Scott Thiel are expected to be part of a sub-committee concerning Wahpeton Public Schools’ buildings and grounds department. In the meantime, Jacobson and other district personnel are pitching in.

“There’s a lot that the principals are doing to help out. It’s kind of a team effort,” Wahpeton Elementary School Principal Jacob Dodge said.

“Until we get someone hired and even for a while, the building principals are kind of taking control of their buildings for a while. I think we need to get somebody in place before the first snowfall,” Jacobson said.

In August, Rittenour demonstrated a cleaning machine before Wahpeton Public Schools leaders and staff. The machines work by spraying disinfectant onto surfaces, Daily News reported. For best results, a surface should not be cleared for at least five minutes.

Not helping matters has been what Jacobson called a terrible track record in hiring dependable part time employees. A common issue has been whether or not the employees would even show up for work.

“Our safe and healthy return plan says we are sanitizing and it’s a priority. No excuses,” Jacobson said.

Frustrated administrators have taken the if you want it to get done, you have to do it yourself attitude.

“It’s a pain in the butt, but if people ask, ‘How do you know it’s getting done?’ you can say, ‘Because we’re doing it,’” Jacobson said.

Board Director Mike Hauschild asked about the possibility of teachers helping out as temporary disinfecting custodians. They have offered, Jacobson said, but there’s been issues over the time commitment.

“Fridays, forget it, that’s not even a possibility,” Jacobson said.

Several individuals are needed for the disinfection task, Daily News reported in August. The job was expected to last approximately three hours each night, Monday-Friday.

Wahpeton Public Schools’ Health and Safety Smart Restart and COVID-19 Response plans are available at wahpeton.k12.nd.us.

In other news, the board accepted the resignations of Renee Rogalla as satellite cook; Peggy Pratt as Wahpeton Elementary School paraprofessional; Marie Travers as Zimmerman Elementary cook and Edmund Roemmich as Wahpeton Elementary School satellite cook.

The board also approved the hiring of Nicole Johnson as Wahpeton Elementary custodial sanitizer; Priscilla Ryder as Zimmerman Elementary paraprofessional; Rachel Wagner as second grade teacher; Megan Edelman as third grade teacher; Janet Neumann as Wahpeton Elementary School dean of students; Steven Paur as Zimmerman Elementary custodian; and Hailey McCall as assistant cross country helper.

Board Directors Jake Kubela and Art Nelson were absent from the meeting.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the Wahpeton High School Commons for their annual goal setting meeting.

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 14 at Wahpeton High School, 1021 11th St. N. in Wahpeton.

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