When: Hempfield school board meeting, Jan. 11, held at the district administration building and streamed via Zoom.
What happened: Board member Justin Wolgemuth suggested changing the language in the health and safety plan to strongly recommend masking for asymptomatic students staying in school after a COVID-19 exposure. Currently, masks are required if asymptomatic, unvaccinated students choose not to quarantine.
Background: During a standing committee meeting Dec. 21, the school board gave the administration authority to craft guidelines saying unvaccinated students or staff members that have been identified as a close contact and are asymptomatic can stay in school as long as they wear a mask, with no exceptions, instead of being required to quarantine.
Board discussion: Since giving the administration authority to make changes to the health and safety plan, modifying it does not require a vote by the board. After discussing it, the board now wants to have the same policies for students regardless of vaccination status and asked the administration to change the language in the plan to support that.
Quotable: “I am just going to state the obvious here, which is I would hope that just like when you have a cold or the flu, best judgment is used,” board member Pat Wagner said.
Public input: A dozen community members spoke at the meeting, the majority dissatisfied with the new policy requiring masks for unvaccinated if they want to stay in school after an exposure. “When I hear that we have different rules for the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, it feels like discrimination. It doesn’t feel fair,” district resident Tamatha Mitchell said.
Testing clinic: The district has partnered with Quest Diagnostics to open a COVID-19 testing clinic at its administration building. The clinic is open Mondays and Fridays, and after the first day, Jan. 7, all appointments were taken. “We are looking to expand testing days as long as we have the staff to do it,” Superintendent Michael Bromirski said. The district does not get any revenue from offering this service, and it is planning to use Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to cover costs associated with the new clinic.
Yearbooks: The board approved a three-year contract with Balfour at a cost of $56,124 for yearbooks to be printed and sold to students from 2023-25. By entering the agreement the district receives a $3,000 technology grant from Balfour.
What’s next: The administration will make changes in the health and safety plan and communicate it to the district shortly. Hempfield school board will meet for its next regular school board meeting Feb. 8.