When: Ephrata Area school board special voting meeting, Aug. 9.
What happened: The school board unanimously approved its health and safety plan for the 2021-22 school year, letting mask usage be an individual choice.
Why it’s important: School districts that receive funding under the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief need to have a health and safety plan in place for the new school year. The district’s goal is to resume pre-COVID-19 measures in schools. In the absence of a binding order, masks will not be required.
Background: The vote came after a large survey was conducted during the last week in July as to whether families in the district wanted their kids to wear masks or not in the upcoming school year. This was before Lancaster County reached “substantial” level of community transmission of COVID-19. Among the 1,452 participants, 15.84% strongly agreed that masks should be required. The majority of the participants strongly disagreed. A parent, Mike Miller, spoke at the meeting, sharing his concern about the fact that the health and safety plan can easily be changed if a legal or binding order is put in place. “Please, do not treat our children like walking viruses,” he said.
Vacancies: After the special voting meeting, the board’s committee of the whole discussed positions needing to be filled as the school year is quickly approaching. The district has heavy vacancies in special education 1-to-1 positions, as well as a districtwide school psychologist part-time position. The district also faces a shortage of bus drivers like the rest of the state.
Quotable: “The job market is very different today and that is something we see in resignations. People are generally moving around more,” Assistant Superintendent Jacy Clugston Hess said.
Construction project: District Business Manager Kristee Reichard informed the board of a change order for the high school and middle school construction project due to a short supply of plastic piping. Because of this, contractor Vision Mechanical Inc. is looking to do the plumbing construction with copper fittings for the water system at a cost of $15,917.
What’s next: The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Aug. 16.