The Eastern Lancaster County School District administrative offices are housed in Garden Spot High School.

When: Eastern Lancaster County school board meeting, Sept. 20.

What happened: The board approved plans to retrofit the HVAC system at New Holland Elementary School, at an estimated cost of $2 million.

Why it matters: Last year, board members voted to spend $165,221 to install a new chiller on the roof of New Holland Elementary. The district will now replace various air handlers, coils and valves, and update the controls and connections to the existing duct work in the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. This capital project, according to chief of finance and operations Keith Ramsey, will help minimize building shutdowns caused by an HVAC failure and “extend the life” of the system beyond the next decade.

What’s next: The board expects to open bids on the project in November and award a contract in December. These deadlines will allow district officials to gather the equipment needed to begin its renovations during the summer of 2022, Ramsey said.

Masking orders: Because of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases due to highly contagious variants, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a mandate to require masks be worn in all K-12 schools and childcare facilities. The board fielded numerous public comments from pro-mask parents and staff members in response to its latest decision to defy the state orders and allow parents to sign a release form to opt their children out of the mask requirement without a doctor’s note.

Public comments: Among those speakers was Eastern Lancaster County Education Association President Jeffrey Martin, who expressed the organization’s concerns over “arbitrar(il)y tampering with the rule of law and legal authority,” which “sets a precedent for anything else in the future that we (the district) dislike or disagree with.” Wendy Twaddell, a teacher with more than 30 years of experience in the district, said her recent challenges as an educator had “little to do with COVID-19, mask-wearing, or teaching remotely” but “everything to do with the overwhelming lack of civil discourse in my own community, state and our nation.”

Quotable: “Administration, nurses and teachers — my colleagues — who are the heart and soul of Elanco School District have been vilified across the news, social media and, most recently, these very school board meetings,” Twaddell said, adding that community members “speaking and acting in a disrespectful manner” in response to the masking issue “is simply unacceptable."

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