School board votes on county health department disease mitigation protocols

The board approved the department’s recommendations for universal masking of all students and teachers inside of school buildings as well as its regulations quarantining individuals and COVID-19 testing

The+school+board+met+on+Monday%2C+August+2+to+discuss+the+districts+communicable+disease+mitigation+protocols+and+other+logistical+agenda+items.

By Gabby Delpleash

The school board met on Monday, August 2 to discuss the district’s communicable disease mitigation protocols and other logistical agenda items.

Gabby Delpleash, Mill Valley News editor-in-chief

The board approved the health department’s recommended policies for masking all teachers and students K-12 within school buildings as well as adopting the recommendations for providing COVID-19 testing to symptomatic individuals at a meeting Monday, Aug. 2. The board also approved to reuse last year’s building-operational guidelines for the school year.

The board actively debated the health department’s recommendations on masking, ultimately voting to adopt the guidelines 4-3. Divided almost evenly, board members pushed ahead for the proposed masking criteria, which requires students K-12 to wear barrier face masks inside of school buildings but allows them to remove their masks in outdoor environments. Similarly, teachers will be required to wear face masks inside of the building with the exceptions of existing out of close contact with students and in the privacy of their own classrooms.

Board member Danielle Heikes advocated for universal masking amongst students and staff so that students could continue to consistently attend school in-person. Heikes cited the recent COVID outbreak at Clear Creek Elementary’s JCPRD summer program as rationale to revoke the board’s previous decision to allow masks to be optional inside USD 232 buildings.

On the other side of the argument, board member Bill Fletcher fought against the universal masking guidelines believing that the board was not in a position to make the personal autonomous decision for over 7,000 students.

“We’re making decisions we’re not really qualified to make,” Fletcher said. “Parents and pediatricians, the individuals who know our students the best, should be making the choice on whether they mask up to go to school or not.”

The board ultimately readopted last year’s school exclusion guidelines for individuals who are considered contagious or presumed to be contagious with a communicable disease. Individuals exposed to COVID-19  and are recommended to quarantine by JHCDE will be excluded from school. Individuals who are fully vaccinated, have a documented case of COVID-19 in the last six months, are not considered exposed and will not be excluded form school unless they are symptomatic followed by JCDHE recommended guidelines.

A chart displayed on screen by superintendent Frank Harwood during the district’s board meeting. (By USD 232)

Superintendent Frank Harwood also introduced criteria to determine whether district buildings will operate under normal or abnormal circumstances per the number of COVID cases a week in the county. Every four weeks, the district will use these criteria to reevaluate how the school building will operate. A chart displaying the standards is embedded here. If the school were reopen today, the criteria would require the building to operate under the the circumstances of “Elevated” COVID-19 cases.

The district also approved to partner with NAWD and KDHE to provide voluntary COVID-19 testing for symptomatic individuals, screening of non-symptomatic individuals, and for individuals who are exposed to COVID-19.

In addition to the requirement of all students and staff wearing masks inside of school buildings, students who ride the bus to school are required to wear barrier face masks inside the bus unless more restrictive guidelines

The board is scheduled to meet again Monday, Sept. 13.

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