The Tunkhannock Area School Board spent about an hour at last Thursday’s meeting mulling over the district’s mask policy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member Holly Arnold asked if the board might consider some alternate face covering options. And, she seemed to take issue with doctors having to write orders excepting some students under certain cases.
Superintendent Heather McPherson said, “Everything we have done is to protect kids to the nth degree.”
After discussion, William Prebola said “for medical purposes, there’s no perfect mask in the broadest sense. There is no right or wrong one so long as we are maintaining the safety of kids,” and he said it was important “to get parents to bear with us.”
“The last thing anyone wants is to have a COVID outbreak,” he added.
A vote was put on the table to amend the face covering policy but was not supported by a 4-4 vote.
Resident George Yuhas, who acknowledging enrolling two of his children in cyber-charter learning, said he was disappointed that the district does not make available numbers to show how many cases are out there and how the numbers change each day. “The public needs to know, are we safe?”
County EMA Director Gene Dziak said, “We’re trying to mitigate the threat of the virus spreading.”
He said with 72 cases to date in the county, “I have to commend Wyoming County and this school district with going the distance.” He suggested with as small a number as the county had, there wasn’t a lot to put out before the public.
Elsewhere during the meeting, the board also adopted a formal response to the auditor general’s performance audit report of 2015-19.
According to state auditor general Eugene DePasquale’s office, the Tunkhannock Area School District inaccurately reported transportation data over four years, resulting in a net underpayment in transportation reimbursements of $195,214, and, the school district also failed to conduct all required monthly fire drills and maintain adequate drill documentation for one school year, the audit — which was released to the public last week — found.
The board signed onto a 3-page response which essentially acknowledged “insufficient knowledge” regarding certain interpretations. Arnold suggested the concerns were “minimal” and it could turn out there is additional money to come to the district.
The board also participated in PSBA officer elections; approved a Continuity of Equitable Education Grant in the amount of $57,750; and adopted the textbook, ‘Graphic Design and Print Technology’ for use by the Graphic Communication class.
There was a discussion coming out of a building and grounds committee meeting about air flows in buildings; and from transportation committee acknowledging a shortage of substitute bus drivers and how to address it with state legislator Rep. Karen Boback to be drafted a letter addressing concerns.
Prebola spoke about an extracurricular meeting and with concerns about COVID-19, “From what I see, people are following the rules. Coaches are great.” Once again he noted how health and safety were paramount.
Board treasurer John Burke also wanted to give a shout out to the administration for fine tuning the district’s Fusion C3 remote learning so money that should rightfully be going to the district is staying there. With some 600 students opting for that plan had they gone a different cyber-charter route, the district could have stood to lose $9 million from its budget to programs which had little or no accountability.
Superintendent McPherson thanked the teachers for “an amazing job thus far,” and she asked parents to just be patient with the staff.
Under unfinished business, the board approved a second reading of policies 222 (tobacco & vaping products), 233 (suspension & expulsion; 805 (emergency preparedness & response), 805.1 (relations with law enforcement agencies), and 805.2 (school security personnel).
Under the superintendent’s report, the board approve the resignation of high school golf coach Andy Neely, and transfer of Barb Sick from asst. golf coach to head coach effective Aug. 30, and appointment of Curt Pickett as asst. golf coach; the resignations of cafeteria workers Amy Kalinowski and Crystal Baltrusaitis; the appointment of long term Intermediate Center substitute teacher Karen DePietro; the approval of physician services by Dr. Rodger Sayre; the approvals for one year of school security officers Brendan Tomaino and Paul Maleski as school security officers; and the awarding of tenure to Kellie Wynne and Michael Franza, as of Sept. 5.