MINSTER – The mandatory mask policy for school staff and students was approved at Monday night’s Minster Board of Education, but only after much pro and con debate from the 35 to 40 visitors in attendance.
Superintendent Brenda Boeke told those visitors that masks were needed as board policy to be in compliance with an order from the Ohio Department of Health.
Also, medical exemptions from the mask policy could only be for a medical condition, as well as for other activities such as eating or playing outside if they are at least 6 feet apart.
Before the vote, community members were asked to share their thoughts.
School district members Chris Niekamp, Stacie Lamm, Andrea Knapke, Kim Wiford, and others each spoke about their concern for the facial covering policy. They hoped the board would allow parental preference as an exemption to mask-wearing.
Kay Schmiesing, Leah Ketner and members of the school administration said the most important reason to wear a mask was the need to keep students in school and that masks, social distancing and following good hand hygiene was the way to attain that. The district has opted for the five day a week attendance plan with options for online learning if desired.
Local resident Dr. Carol Quinter, Infectious Disease expert, also supported mask wearing, sharing her opinions on the significance of masks as a way to control infection.
After considerable discussion, the board approved the mandatory mask policy with a 4-1 vote. Board member Ted Oldiges voted against the policy.
Two other school district residents, Crystal Tull and Katie Albers, expressed concern over the removal of in-town bus stops. Boeke explained in order to comply with social distancing on buses, children were only allowed two to a seat, resulting in a shortage of bus seating. The board agreed to send out a survey of the number to determine the number of riders at the in town stops to determine if a second route would be feasible.
A school student attendance report from Boeke showed a total of 877 students enrolled. Of that number, 438 were in elementary school and 14 in pre-school.
High school enrollment was 414 with 16 going to Tri-Star.
Open enrollment has 28 students coming into the district and 40 going out of the district. The families of nine children have chosen to home school. Two students will attend the Ohio Virtual Academy, and eight students will use Educere, Minster School’s online instruction program.
K-6 Principal Leann Keller reported they will soon have a new sensory pathway installed in the library hallway, made possible by the attainment of a grant by Intervention Specialist Abby Knapke.
Keller also said the order for new chrome books now had a delivery date later in September. As a result, the current devices will be shifted so fifth- and sixth-grade students will still have chrome books at the start of the year.
Also, one grade level set of chrome books will be shared between third and fourth grade, until the fourth-grade chrome books come in. Kindergarten, first and second grades will share iPads until the district can return chrome books to second grade.
Keller said Back to School Night (Aug. 24) will look a little different this year, with only kindergarten students and their parents visiting classrooms, one third of each class at a time. Families of students in grades one through six are invited to participate in a “drive through” greeting from their teachers.
Elementary fall student pictures will be taken by Lange Photography on Sept. 10.
Keller thanked the custodial and maintenance staff for doing an excellent job preparing the facility for the new school year. This included plenty of problem solving and adjustments needed to implement spacing and cleaning protocols.
Junior/Senior High principal Austin Kaylor reported they are preparing for the beginning-of-year grade level meetings. He said all grades except seventh will have their meetings in a virtual format. Information will be shared with students via short videos in the days leading up to school, addressing traditional topics including the student handbook and code of conduct, class officer selection, student parking, NHS requirements, and more.
Additionally, information relating to new COVID protocols will be shared with students no later than Monday, Aug. 24.
In the Ohio School’s Facilities update, Boeke said the they are waiting for Garmann and Miller and Stan Associates to complete their final walk through.
Under the curriculum and instruction portion of the meeting, new teachers Cristy Hess, Megan Van Scyock, Seth Stammen and Owen Lewis were welcomed to the staff.
In the Treasurer’s Consent Agenda, school treasurer Laura Klosterman shared her report. The board also approved the minutes, financial report, payment of bills and a Now and Then certificate for payment of Riddell/All American for Reconditioning of Equipment.
In the Superintendent’s Consent Agenda, the board approved the athletic handbook, payment of $861.60 per student for a total of $3,446.40 in lieu of student transportation. The board also changed the use of school grounds for the Oct. 4 Oktoberfest 10K run to outside the high school instead of inside as was previously approved.
They accepted a donation of $8,000 from the Academic Boosters for the next phase of the Elementary Playground and a donation of 300 disposable masks, 120 KN95 masks and 400 adult and 100 child masks from Mark One Manufacturing.The board approved the remote learning plan and a memorandum of agreement changing the teachers contracted day from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to 7:50 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
The board approved Trina Nixon as the OSBA Capital Conference delegate.
In personnel the board approved many certified and classified personnel recommendations.
The board went into executive session for the purpose of employment and compensation of a public employee with no action taken.
The next regular board meeting is at 7:00pm on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.