Elizabethtown Area School District

When: Elizabethtown Area school board meeting, May 25.

What happened: Despite continuing pushback from the public on requiring students to still wear masks at school, the board voted unanimously to retain COVID-19 protocols, including masking, in place through the last school day on June 8.

Quotable: “Whatever our personal thoughts are about masking, according to our school district solicitor, we are under a valid state order that requires masking of all non-fully vaccinated individuals,” Superintendent Michele Balliet said, adding she had checked on the matter earlier that day.

Racism, homophobia: During citizen comments, Samiyah Hernandez, a junior at Elizabethtown Area High School, told the board about multiple instances of racism and homophobia. Hernandez said students “feel uncomfortable coming to the administration, because they feel administration is inaccessible” and has not denounced such problematic behavior from the student body.  “I am a student of color, I am queer, and I am president of the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance). I have experienced racism, homophobia and have felt exactly how these students have, and now I’m speaking for them.”

District response: Balliet said she appreciated her bringing the matter forward and that she would share it with the board. Contacted later, district spokesman Troy Portser commended Hernandez for her courage in speaking to the board and said the administration would seek to learn more about the situation. “We want to offer an environment where all students feel safe and one that’s conducive to learning,” he said.

Advance Placement course: The board also heard from a former student and two parents who don’t want to see AP Physics 2 dropped from the high school curriculum next year. Adam Evans, a 2020 Elizabethtown graduate, described how the challenging course helped prepare him for his first year at Penn State University, where he is an engineering major and member of the Shreyer Honors College. His mother, Jodi Evans, urged the board to reconsider. Parent Karyn Bender said no prior notice was given to students and parents. “It just seems like the district is now going away from important STEM-related classes for the students planning to attend college and more focused on the students going into the workforce” Bender said.

Superintendent’s response: Balliet said course scheduling has not been completed yet, and the district administration had not been aware of any changes to AP physics. Balliet said the high school principal will be at a June board meeting for a discussion and decision on classes with enrollments of under 12 students.

ThoughtExchange: The district will use ThoughtExchange, an online crowd-sourcing platform, to gather community sentiment in making the decision on whether to close Mill Road and Rheems elementary schools and consolidate kindergarten through second grades into East High Street and Bainbridge elementary schools. A report will be presented at the June 15 meeting, and the results will be reviewed and discussed at a special meeting on June 29.

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