When: Penn Manor School District board meeting, Aug. 16.
What: At least 60 parents filled the school board room – and spilled into an overflow room – to continue an ongoing debate on whether or not children in the Penn Manor School District should be masked. Another 167 community members logged on to watch the meeting’s livestream. A few parents requested that the meeting be moved into a bigger room so all parents could be in the same room as the board. Brian Wallace, the district’s community relations coordinator, said moving the equipment required to livestream the meeting would take at least 45 minutes. The board remained in the Manor Middle School boardroom.
Current situation: At its July 12 meeting, Penn Manor stated masks would be optional for all students and staff. This aspect of the district’s health and safety plan has not changed. As protocol for the citizen’s comment portion of the board meeting, the board members did not respond to the parent statements.
On Monday, LNP | LancasterOnline reported that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Lancaster County have reached the highest level in three months, with a recorded 36 patients in the county’s three hospitals.
Comment from a pro-mask parent: Parent Gen Peffley, who has an 11-year-old daughter in the district, said she is baffled by the district’s decision to make mask-wearing optional, especially with children under 12 still unable to receive the vaccination. Because that age group is ineligible for vaccinations, the Center for Disease Control recommends that children between the ages of two and 12 wear masks around those who they do not live with.
“The governor let the decision be in your hands,” Peffley said. “Please let your legacy be that you are part of the solution and please, we implore you… mandate masks for anyone who’s medically capable of wearing them. We’re watching.”
Comment from a mask-optional parent: Parent Ken Eckert said a parent has to choose what is best for their children.
“I know what’s best for my family and I understand the risks involved with the decisions that I make,” Eckert said. “I would not be so arrogant to tell another family what is best for them and impose my beliefs, my fears and my opinions onto them. This is still America, land of the free, home of the brave. Let people decide what’s best for them and I applaud you for choosing what you did.”
Educator evaluation: Under Act 13 passed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in 2020 and effective for the 2021-22 academic years, students’ standardized test performance has less weight on how a teacher is evaluated.
What’s on tap for the 2022-23 budget: The board has three action items in the upcoming school year as it pertains to the 2022-23 budget. First, at the board’s Dec. 6 meeting, members will vote on whether or not the district will need to exceed the Act 1 Index. The Act 1 Index puts a limit on how much a school district can raise taxes annually. As of right now, district manager Chris Johnston said the board has agreed that the district will not seek any exceptions this year.
On May 9 2022, the board must vote to adopt the proposed final budget. Finally, the board will vote to adopt the final budget and set the district tax rate at its June 20 2022 meeting.
What’s next: The board will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7 in the Manor Middle School boardroom, 2950 Charlestown Rd. Watch remotely on their YouTube page.