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All Things Appleton

All Things Appleton This page is devoted to Appleton, its politics, and its art. Washington DC is far away, but Appleton is where we live, and it's good to know what's going on in our own backyard.

Run by Jessica Menn Anderson.

Operating as usual

Appleton is currently in the “Low” Community Level for Covid-19 (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/04/11/coronavirus-nu...
04/16/2022

Appleton is currently in the “Low” Community Level for Covid-19 (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/04/11/coronavirus-numbers-for-04-03-2022-04-09-2022/), and masking is not mandated in any City of Appleton government buildings nor are masks mandated in Appleton Area School District buildings…except for Columbus Elementary School.

Columbus is currently above the 2% threshold for positive cases among students which, per AASD’s Covid rules, has prompted 2 weeks of mask wearing.

[To me, this illustrates the fundamentally inequitable nature of AASD’s current Covid guidelines and masking policy.]

Columbus is a very small school with only 127 students. The maximum number of Covid-positive students they can have at any given time without rising above that 2% threshold is 2. They have had 5 students test positive recently. That handful of students accounts for 3.38% of the student population, and Columbus is now in the midst of 14 days of mandatory masking even though the overall community Covid level as determined by the CDC is “Low” and few if any other organizations and businesses in Appleton are mandating masking.

There are three AASD elementary schools that have such low enrollments (https://wisedash.dpi.wi.gov/Dashboard/dashboard/18110) that they can only have 2 students at any given time who are positive for Covid before the school breaks the 2% threshold.

*Appleton Bilingual School – 119 students
*Appleton Montessori – 138 students
*Columbus – 127

The Municipal Services Committee met 04/11/2022. One of the information items on the agenda was a presentation of three ...
04/15/2022

The Municipal Services Committee met 04/11/2022. One of the information items on the agenda was a presentation of three possible design options for Soldier’s Square. The committee had spent some time during the 03/23/2022 meeting discussing Soldier’s Square, (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/03/26/municipal-services-committee-discusses-possible-redesign-of-soldiers-square-makes-no-decision-and-votes-on-nothing/) with the discussion revolving around the number of parking stalls it would be appropriate to remove and touching on the fact that a reconstruction of Soldier’s Square is not planned for the next 5 years. Even though the area is not listed in the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan, the committee was presented at the 04/11/2022 meeting with three possible designs as a way to at least give them something to think about. Two of the options removed no parking stalls and one would remove 11 stalls.

Director of Public Works Paula Vandehey explained that the first drawing in the packet was of Soldier’s Square as it currently exists. The first two options were ones that she came up with and the third option was one that Alderperson Alex Schultz (District 9) had created. [Alderperson Schultz is the Executive Director of Sculpture Valley which has partnered with “the Hearthstone Historic Home and Museum and the John H. Bradley VA clinic to raise funds for the revitalization effort [of Soldier’s Square] and support the goal of installing new memorials to honor all those who have served since WWII but have never been publicly recognized in our town square.” (https://www.sculpturevalley.com/soldiers-square-revitalization)]

The first option involved the fewest changes. The old parking structure had featured a long ramp or chute along the north side by which cars exited the structure. That chute had bumped out into Soldier’s Square. The new parking structure will not include that ramp. With it gone there was some additional room on the ground which would allow them to straighten out the sidewalk. Simply by straightening out the sidewalk, they would be able to create about 1,200 square feet of additional space of the monument without touching anything else in Soldier’s Square and without losing any parking stalls.

The second option took into account the fact that, with the ramp chute gone, the dumpster enclosure looked like it was now in the middle of Soldier’s Square. This new design moved it closer to the sidewalk so it wasn’t as prominent. That move would result in the loss of three parking stalls, but those three stalls could then be recreated in the spot where the dumpster had previously been located so there would be no net loss of parking stalls. This design would require some pavement and curb work and would result in about 1,5000 square feet of additional space for the monument.

The third option was designed by Alderperson Schultz. It would move the dumpster enclosure and then also eliminate 11 parking stalls which would give significant more space for the monument. She noted that there were currently 32 parking stalls in Soldier’s Square so the loss of 11 stalls would be substantial.

She also included a drawing that Alderperson Schultz had shared with her. [It’s a really low-quality scan so perhaps difficult to get a good idea of his vision for the square.]

She finished up by saying that normally they would hold a design hearing, but they hold a design hearing when there is an actual project. Right now, there is no funding and a Soldier’s Square reconstruction is not in the city’s 5-year CIP, so it seemed like it was a little early to have a design hearing. She was hoping that by providing these options she would at least be giving the committee something to think about.

Alderperson Katie Van Zeeland (District 5) said that she received a lot of questions regarding Soldier’s Square after a local news organization ran a story about it recently. People were confused about the parking ramp, whether it was public, how the City of Appleton worked with the YMCA, and what the ramp would be like going forward. She wondered if Director Vandehey could go over that.

Director Vandehey said that the ramp being built was being paid for completely by the YMCA, so it would be a private parking ramp. The Y was had indicated that, at least to start out, the ramp would not be open to the public. Director Vandehey thought that was because they wanted to make sure that they were serving their own customers first but that over time they might open it up to non-YMCA members. She said that, especially at night, they might sell some permits to people that live downtown since most of the YMCA’s customers would be in the ramp during the day. Someday they might even open it to the general public to park in during the day, but right now the plan was for it to be a private parking ramp owned and paid for by the YMCA for its customers.

Alderperson Van Zeeland asked if Director Vandehey could give her a little background. Was the history that the city built the original parking ramp and then the city took it over?

Director Vandehey answered that at one time the Soldier’s Square ramp was owned by the city then the YMCA purchased it from the city and took over all maintenance of the facility.
Vandehey: okay thank you.

Alderperson William Siebers (District 1) [who has been around for a long time] mentioned that they got a good deal and only had to pay $1 for the parking structure.

Alderperson Chad Doran (District 15) said that it looked like the main different between the third option and the first two options for the monument area was the addition of the Every Soldier’s Square bricks which were being sold by a private entity. (https://everysoldierssquare.org/) They would be losing some parking, but the only addition to the monument area would be the inclusion of the bricks.

Director Vandehey confirmed that was the case. Options 1 and 2 included green space that could be turned into a brick area instead of being greenspace. That would be decided as part of the design hearing.

Alderperson Doran asked if taking away some of the green space on Option 3 would help save a few more of those parking stalls.

Director Vandehey thought that doing that would make it look closer to Option 2.

Alderperson Denise Fenton (District 6) understood that they had not estimated the cost on any of the options, but she wondered if the different options were roughly equivalent in terms of cost.

Director Vandehey answered that they were not. The only cost for option 1 would be the new sidewalk. Options 2 and 3 would involve redoing the curb, removing curb, removing colored and stamped concrete, adding new curb and new colored and stamped concrete, and reconstructing the dumpster enclosure. There would be a significant cost increase moving from Option 1 to Options 2 or 3.

Alderperson Doran wondered if they went with Option 2 or 3 if the funds to pay for those added costs would come entirely from the city or if there would be an opportunity to potentially share costs with the private organization that wants to put the bricks in. He thought that was perhaps something for later discussion.

Director Vandehey thought that was a great question, but she didn’t know the answer and reiterated that there was nothing in the city’s 5-year CIP regarding Soldier’s Square.

Alderperson Van Zeeland asked if there were any concerns about the materials that were being sold by the private organization. Were the bricks even feasible to be used and would there be a way of building this square with different materials that would make it less expensive or easier to maintain.

Director Vandehey said that if they talked to herself or to Dean Gazza, the Director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities, they would not recommend using bricks. The city has used bricks on other projects, but they are very high maintenance and easily move and become tripping hazards. They would recommend finding a different method to raise funds such as by having a plaque with names on it. But she said that was just staff’s perspective on it.

Alderperson Van Zeeland thought it was an important conversation to have and something they should all keep in mind given how preliminary everything was.

Alderperson Brad Firkus (District 3) thought the three options helped give at least some visual of what was possible in the space and how the different orientations and dimensions worked. He thanked her for the images.

View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=954595&GUID=A2997A22-ADF2-49EE-B7C1-BDB5AF5B0637

The Appleton Area School District Board of Education met 04/11/2022. Two of the items that were presented to them and di...
04/14/2022

The Appleton Area School District Board of Education met 04/11/2022. Two of the items that were presented to them and discussed were (a) the purchase of Spanish language reader materials and (b) the purchase of “Cengage National Geographic U.S. History American Stories, Survey” for 8th grade World History.

Steve Harrison, the Assistant Superintendent of Assessment, Curriculum & Instruction, told the Board that the agenda had been updated and that the Board would not be voting on either of those two items that evening but would instead just receive an informational update about them. The leadership team had decided to extend the period to receive public feedback on the proposed materials through April 22, so the Board’s vote on whether or not to approve them would take place at a future meeting.

Further details about those can be viewed on the District’s website.

Spanish Readers: https://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/news/what_s_new/feedback_requested__high_school_world_languages

8th Grade World History: https://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/news/what_s_new/feedback_requested__middle_school_social_studies

Kelly Leopold, the Secondary Director of ELA, Social Studies, and World Languages gave an overview of the background information and why staff was requesting to purchase the materials. She said that part of the budget this year included funds for readers for the World Languages classes from 7ths through 12th grade. The foreign language classes do similar things to English Language Arts classes such as having the students participate in literature circles and read short magazine articles.

The three readers were for the Advanced Spanish course, one for AP/CAPP 204 courses, one for the level 6 district Spanish course, and one for the semester course. As a side note, she reminded the Board that most of the students that take the Spanish semester course are enrolled at North because they are coming from their Spanish Studies at Classical School.

Staff wanted to purchase these materials because to make sure that they were not just scratching the surface but diving in deep. Although they do not assess students’ cultural competency for the classes, they did think it was important to have cultural works woven into the instruction and that students be highly engaged during instruction because that would build their language acquisition, open their minds, and help them compare and contrast the story to their own lives.

She said that they solicited public feedback for 30 days by putting the novels out for review at the Public Library along with a blank feedback forms. There was also a Google form for people to provide online feedback. As of 04/11/2022, they had not received any feedback.

Assistant Superintendent Harrison jumped in and said that they understand changes have occurred since the onset of the pandemic. In the past they relied more heavily on media outlets as well as in-person examination of materials at the Public Library. They were striving to ensure that they were making materials more accessible and trying to figure out how to improve communication behind the overall process.

One of the challenges they continue to have is whether or not publishers are willing to make digital access possible so that families can preview materials online. Their reluctance to do so was understandable in light of copyright issues. Particularly for things like novels, publishers would not put forward the entire novel for preview digitally. AASD wanted to make sure that if a publisher was putting something forward digitally that it was more than just one chapter or unit, and if that was all a publisher made available then AASD would make sure it was clear to those previewing it that it was only a chapter or unit and that hard copies of the full material could be viewed in-person.

They planned to have physical materials available for review both at the district’s Leadership Center as well as potentially at some secondary sites.

Kelly returned to her presentation and told the Board that although they do not assess students on their cultural competency, they do assess them on vocabulary. The three books will help students make gains with high frequency structures and vocabulary. She went on to say that there’s some evidence that if students know 500 high-frequency structures for a language, they can understand about 60% of what is written and spoken in that language. They were aiming for higher than that by this point with those upper-level courses and would really be building on those high-frequency vocabulary terms.

Assistant Superintendent Harrison said that when the item did come forward for a vote, the purchase would be part of the 2021/22 AC&I [I’m assuming that means Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction] budget. He then opened things up for questions.

Board member Deb Truyman said that this sounded a lot like teaching English Language Arts but in a different language. She expected that teachers were excited to use these novels to increase the skills the students were learning. She wondered if the teachers were prepared to do this and if they had taught students those skills before regarding character analysis etc.

Kelly answered that teachers were prepared. The students read short stories and junior level chapter books. They also watch films and tv series. They do sequence of events, character analysis, and comparisons. They do those things from level two in high school up through level six.

She reiterated that these materials were meant to engage the students. They already do a lot of informative reading but they don’t read a lot of fiction. these novels would be more story-like, even if one was based on a true story. She added that the teachers were very excited and working together to prepare.

Board Member Kris Sauter asked for a reminder as to how the process worked for selecting materials. She knew that staff was involved but wondered if there were any other members on the committee that looked at materials that were being considered. Essentially, who was doing the selecting?

Kelly answered that the teachers in their Professional Learning Communities looked through different readers searching for things that tied into their units of study and that would help take the level of instruction deeper and given them another point of emphasis on prior content knowledge.

There were no further questions on the Spanish language materials.

They moved on to the 8th Grade U.S. history materials purchase.

Kelly said that the US history course has been a standards-based course for a couple of years. Up until this point, some teachers have been teaching the course chronologically and some have been teaching the course with themes. That has been a topic of conversation as they have been looking at the standards-based audits they have been completely on their courses.

They began the textbook search back in August. They look at a dozen different options and narrowed them down to a handful. They contacted the publishers and had them send some copies so that teachers at each of the three middle schools had an opportunity to look through them and discuss them in their Professional Learning Communities. In January they voted and narrowed it down to two companies. Those two companies came and presented to the District U.S. History Professional Learning Community. Cengage National Geographic U.S. History American Stories, Survey far and above met their expectations, and they were very excited about it.

The textbook not only meets the district’s needs for standards-based and inquiry-based learning, but it offers different perspectives which Kelly said was crucial for the important life skills that students learn in social studies. The textbook included significant events, important people, critical movements, historical trends, historical timelines, and historical themes. It also incorporated the units of study that 8th graders were doing per quarter, so it helped teachers go very deep and very wide with their instruction. The units included colonial times, the civil war and reconstruction period, 20th Century crises, the post-war America period, and America in a changing world.

If approved, the purchase would include digital access to the text and workbook, integration with Canvas, assistance with teacher clarity. They have the Britannica database for primary resources, use artifacts from national museums, and provide digital field trips. Everything is archived so teachers don’t have to worry about whether or not they will have access to a particular digital field trip in five years. It includes modified text options for students that need accommodations, different kinds of graphic organizers, formative and summative assessments, and handbooks relating to several of Wisconsin’s state standards.

The textbook would help develop students skills in terms of distinguishing fact and opinion, drawing conclusions, evaluating, expressing ideas through speech, forming and supporting their opinions, argumentation, identifying problems and solutions, interpreting various forms of text, identifying the main idea and key details, making generalizations inferences and predictions, posing and answering questions, sequencing events, summarizing and synthesizing, taking notes, and using the various graphic organizer. A student journal and workbook were also part of the bundle, so students would be writing journal entries and outlines for reports and comparisons.

Like the Spanish readers, this was made available for public review for 30 days. Unlike the Spanish readers, they were able to provide digital access to the full text book.

Assistant Superintendent Harrison reiterated that the period for the public to provide feedback through April 22 and noted that, like the Spanish readers would be covered by the 2021-22 school year’s budget for the AC&I Department.

Board member Jim Bowman said he knew that some of the books AASD students read are controversial and they sometimes get a great deal of input on them, but "this social science textbook does not look controversial to me. Are you expecting enough input to give you what you need?"

Assistant Superintendent Harrison responded that, through improved communication as well as by extending the feedback period, he was hopeful that they would provide additional opportunities for feedback.

Kelly had nothing to add in terms of the question, but noted that when people reviewed the book they would be able to see how it was organized, the different content, and the different options it gives teachers specific to AASD’s standards-based learning around argumentation, using sources and evidence, historical understanding etc.

Deb said that she had just been looking but couldn’t find the page on the AASD website where the materials could be reviewed.

Assistant Superintendent Harrison told her it was under the District News and Announcements section, although he had to scroll down a bit to find the notice. He wasn’t able to access the digital review of the textbook because the online access had expired. He said he would contact the publisher and get that online access extended through April 22.

He finished out by adding that if parents or guardians ever have any questions about instruction or what's taking place within the classroom, middle and high school classes can be accessed through Canvas and are accessible to parents and guardians so they can see what day to day learning looks like. [Although he didn’t mention it, parents and guardians also have a legal right to ask for classroom materials related to courses their students are enrolled in.]

There were no further questions.

Again, more information about those textbooks can be found at the links below.

Spanish Readers: https://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/news/what_s_new/feedback_requested__high_school_world_languages

8th Grade World History: https://www.aasd.k12.wi.us/news/what_s_new/feedback_requested__middle_school_social_studies

View full meeting details here: http://go.boarddocs.com/wi/aasd/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=CCKRDR6C7580
View full meeting video here: https://youtu.be/0pmA2Buj_8Y

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Appleton is currently in the “Low” Community Level for Covid-19 (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/04/11/coronavirus-numbers-for-04-03-2022-04-09-2022/), and masking is not mandated in any City of Appleton government buildings nor are masks mandated in Appleton Area School District buildings…except for Columbus Elementary School. Columbus is currently above the 2% threshold for positive cases among students which, per AASD’s Covid rules, has prompted 2 weeks of mask wearing. [To me, this illustrates the fundamentally inequitable nature of AASD’s current Covid guidelines and masking policy.] Columbus is a very small school with only 127 students. The maximum number of Covid-positive students they can have at any given time without rising above that 2% threshold is 2. They have had 5 students test positive recently. That handful of students accounts for 3.38% of the student population, and Columbus is now in the midst of 14 days of mandatory masking even though the overall community Covid level as determined by the CDC is “Low” and few if any other organizations and businesses in Appleton are mandating masking. There are three AASD elementary schools that have such low enrollments (https://wisedash.dpi.wi.gov/Dashboard/dashboard/18110) that they can only have 2 students at any given time who are positive for Covid before the school breaks the 2% threshold. *Appleton Bilingual School – 119 students *Appleton Montessori – 138 students *Columbus – 127
The Municipal Services Committee met 04/11/2022. One of the information items on the agenda was a presentation of three possible design options for Soldier’s Square. The committee had spent some time during the 03/23/2022 meeting discussing Soldier’s Square, (https://allthingsappleton.com/2022/03/26/municipal-services-committee-discusses-possible-redesign-of-soldiers-square-makes-no-decision-and-votes-on-nothing/) with the discussion revolving around the number of parking stalls it would be appropriate to remove and touching on the fact that a reconstruction of Soldier’s Square is not planned for the next 5 years. Even though the area is not listed in the City’s 5-year Capital Improvement Plan, the committee was presented at the 04/11/2022 meeting with three possible designs as a way to at least give them something to think about. Two of the options removed no parking stalls and one would remove 11 stalls. Director of Public Works Paula Vandehey explained that the first drawing in the packet was of Soldier’s Square as it currently exists. The first two options were ones that she came up with and the third option was one that Alderperson Alex Schultz (District 9) had created. [Alderperson Schultz is the Executive Director of Sculpture Valley which has partnered with “the Hearthstone Historic Home and Museum and the John H. Bradley VA clinic to raise funds for the revitalization effort [of Soldier’s Square] and support the goal of installing new memorials to honor all those who have served since WWII but have never been publicly recognized in our town square.” (https://www.sculpturevalley.com/soldiers-square-revitalization)] The first option involved the fewest changes. The old parking structure had featured a long ramp or chute along the north side by which cars exited the structure. That chute had bumped out into Soldier’s Square. The new parking structure will not include that ramp. With it gone there was some additional room on the ground which would allow them to straighten out the sidewalk. Simply by straightening out the sidewalk, they would be able to create about 1,200 square feet of additional space of the monument without touching anything else in Soldier’s Square and without losing any parking stalls. The second option took into account the fact that, with the ramp chute gone, the dumpster enclosure looked like it was now in the middle of Soldier’s Square. This new design moved it closer to the sidewalk so it wasn’t as prominent. That move would result in the loss of three parking stalls, but those three stalls could then be recreated in the spot where the dumpster had previously been located so there would be no net loss of parking stalls. This design would require some pavement and curb work and would result in about 1,5000 square feet of additional space for the monument. The third option was designed by Alderperson Schultz. It would move the dumpster enclosure and then also eliminate 11 parking stalls which would give significant more space for the monument. She noted that there were currently 32 parking stalls in Soldier’s Square so the loss of 11 stalls would be substantial. She also included a drawing that Alderperson Schultz had shared with her. [It’s a really low-quality scan so perhaps difficult to get a good idea of his vision for the square.] She finished up by saying that normally they would hold a design hearing, but they hold a design hearing when there is an actual project. Right now, there is no funding and a Soldier’s Square reconstruction is not in the city’s 5-year CIP, so it seemed like it was a little early to have a design hearing. She was hoping that by providing these options she would at least be giving the committee something to think about. Alderperson Katie Van Zeeland (District 5) said that she received a lot of questions regarding Soldier’s Square after a local news organization ran a story about it recently. People were confused about the parking ramp, whether it was public, how the City of Appleton worked with the YMCA, and what the ramp would be like going forward. She wondered if Director Vandehey could go over that. Director Vandehey said that the ramp being built was being paid for completely by the YMCA, so it would be a private parking ramp. The Y was had indicated that, at least to start out, the ramp would not be open to the public. Director Vandehey thought that was because they wanted to make sure that they were serving their own customers first but that over time they might open it up to non-YMCA members. She said that, especially at night, they might sell some permits to people that live downtown since most of the YMCA’s customers would be in the ramp during the day. Someday they might even open it to the general public to park in during the day, but right now the plan was for it to be a private parking ramp owned and paid for by the YMCA for its customers. Alderperson Van Zeeland asked if Director Vandehey could give her a little background. Was the history that the city built the original parking ramp and then the city took it over? Director Vandehey answered that at one time the Soldier’s Square ramp was owned by the city then the YMCA purchased it from the city and took over all maintenance of the facility. Vandehey: okay thank you. Alderperson William Siebers (District 1) [who has been around for a long time] mentioned that they got a good deal and only had to pay $1 for the parking structure. Alderperson Chad Doran (District 15) said that it looked like the main different between the third option and the first two options for the monument area was the addition of the Every Soldier’s Square bricks which were being sold by a private entity. (https://everysoldierssquare.org/) They would be losing some parking, but the only addition to the monument area would be the inclusion of the bricks. Director Vandehey confirmed that was the case. Options 1 and 2 included green space that could be turned into a brick area instead of being greenspace. That would be decided as part of the design hearing. Alderperson Doran asked if taking away some of the green space on Option 3 would help save a few more of those parking stalls. Director Vandehey thought that doing that would make it look closer to Option 2. Alderperson Denise Fenton (District 6) understood that they had not estimated the cost on any of the options, but she wondered if the different options were roughly equivalent in terms of cost. Director Vandehey answered that they were not. The only cost for option 1 would be the new sidewalk. Options 2 and 3 would involve redoing the curb, removing curb, removing colored and stamped concrete, adding new curb and new colored and stamped concrete, and reconstructing the dumpster enclosure. There would be a significant cost increase moving from Option 1 to Options 2 or 3. Alderperson Doran wondered if they went with Option 2 or 3 if the funds to pay for those added costs would come entirely from the city or if there would be an opportunity to potentially share costs with the private organization that wants to put the bricks in. He thought that was perhaps something for later discussion. Director Vandehey thought that was a great question, but she didn’t know the answer and reiterated that there was nothing in the city’s 5-year CIP regarding Soldier’s Square. Alderperson Van Zeeland asked if there were any concerns about the materials that were being sold by the private organization. Were the bricks even feasible to be used and would there be a way of building this square with different materials that would make it less expensive or easier to maintain. Director Vandehey said that if they talked to herself or to Dean Gazza, the Director of Parks, Recreation, and Facilities, they would not recommend using bricks. The city has used bricks on other projects, but they are very high maintenance and easily move and become tripping hazards. They would recommend finding a different method to raise funds such as by having a plaque with names on it. But she said that was just staff’s perspective on it. Alderperson Van Zeeland thought it was an important conversation to have and something they should all keep in mind given how preliminary everything was. Alderperson Brad Firkus (District 3) thought the three options helped give at least some visual of what was possible in the space and how the different orientations and dimensions worked. He thanked her for the images. View full meeting details and video here: https://cityofappleton.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=954595&GUID=A2997A22-ADF2-49EE-B7C1-BDB5AF5B0637