Six of 10 members of the public signed up to speak at tonight’s East Washington School Board meeting, but it was Superintendent Dennis Stockdale who explained why the school is approaching things a little differently than last year in regards to Covid-19.
“We don’t have a mask mandate,” he explained to the dozen or so who gathered in the school’s performing arts auditorium. “Our goal when we did our Return to Learn plan was to leave the wearing of masks and vaccinations of kids in the hands of parents. I have no recommendations tonight or I see in the future that we’re going to change that. If we do, then we will have a discussion about that.”
Currently, East Washington’s plan is to observe social distancing and strongly encourage all students to wear masks.
Without a mandate from the state or local health departments, schools around Indiana have been faced with forging ahead through the pandemic on their own.
Stockdale said there had been a lot of publicity and media attention surrounding masks and Covid-19.
“I’m not sure if I’ve ever really explained why we have to do what we have to do,” he said. “There are a couple of laws we have to follow,” and explained the Indiana Communicable Disease Law.
Stockdale said this requires all schools, including East Washington, to comply with disease intervention activities, which are “referred to as control measures as adopted by the Indiana Department of Health to help stop the spread of Covid 19.”
He said they include monitoring for Covid-19 symptoms, wearing a mask at all times around other people, contact tracing, and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from others at all — unless otherwise directed by state and local health authorities.
Stockdale noted that those rules had been loosened a bit over the past few months.
Other than the Center for Disease Controls “suggestions” and the federal mandate to require students to wear masks on buses, Indiana hasn’t moved to enact any additional safety regarding Covid-19.
Stockdale said the corporation had about an 8 percent absenteeism rate, which is one of the lowest in the county.
West Washington reported approximately 22 students out with Covid-19 and Salem Schools hasn’t officially reported any numbers. The State of Indiana’s Covid-19 Dashboard shows 7 students with Covid at the Salem High School and fewer than five cases at both Bradie M. Shrum and Salem Middle School.
As a safety measure, West Washington Schools moved to virtual classes beginning earlier today through Sept. 7.
“We found last year that the virtual option is not a successful option for most kids,” said Stockdale. “We’re going to keep them here and do the best we can and the safest way we can and live within the laws we have to abide by”
Stockdale said he was working with Salem and West Washington to develop a county plan to deal with rising Covid numbers.
“There is some communication in the county with other schools about looking at metrics in terms of what the trigger points are without all of us having to do the same things,” he said. “Our goal is to keep the kids in school and keep them safe. That’s what we look at every day.”
Stockdale said the school will focus on keeping the numbers down and work hard to keep the students in school.
“We’re also working hard to give our parents a say and choice. We’ve allowed the parents to have a choice. If they want to be sure not to quarantine, the mask is a good option but it’s not required,” he said.
Tonight’s full meeting can be watched here — https://www.facebook.com/100001217993193/videos/826389561400811/
In Board Business
After approving minutes from the July session, the board approved claims and monthly financial reports.
The board approved the following staff changes:
- Alexandria Gonzalez as a part-time student support specialist in developmental preschool.
- Kelly Delaney-Bottorf as a part-time high school study hall monitor
- Mackenzie Thieneman as a preschool instructor
- Joshua Mills as 7th-grade football coach
- Celeste Bittner as 7th-grade volleyball coach
- Katlyn Rice as 7th and 8th-grade cheer coach
- Elizabeth Nalley as the middle school boys cross country coach
- Michael Gilliam as high school girls golf coach
- Kendall Martin as high school assistant football coach
- Jonathan Adams as high school study hall monitor
- Robin Costin as an elementary school support specialist
- Christie Shepherd, as an elementary school support specialist
Conflict of Interest forms were submitted and approved for Amy Green, Laura Temple, and Kim Souder.
The board approved declaring several items as obsolete.
The board approved a teacher appreciation grant policy and approved contracting with Administrator Assistance, a company that would provide additional help in case of a long-term leave of an administrator.
The board received and approved a donation of $100 from Jeans Extrusions for use of Student and Staff Recognition.
The board will have a work session on Tuesday, Sept. 14 at 5p and the next regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 5p.