The Tunkhannock Area School Board last Wednesday (Nov. 18) received new information that the three COVID-positive cases identified two days earlier was now seven, and its members voted unanimously that classes would go completely virtual until Monday, Nov. 30.
Superintendent Heather McPherson said Wednesday that the district now has two cases among children and five among adults, and they touch all four of the district’s buildings.
Although stating that he believed students were actually safer in school than the community at large, board member William Prebola said, “We need to follow the data, and see where this goes.”
Board member Shauna Gregory said, “We don’t want kids to be scared or nervous. We just think this is the right thing to do.”
McPherson addressed contact tracing, and said 13 individuals have tested negative, and the district was awaiting the results of tests given to eight adults and four children.
Prebola said, “We’re not asking everyone to be tested, but if you feel like you’re showing symptoms you need to consult with your doctor and follow his or her advice on testing.”
McPherson also had advice for parents with families gathering for Thanksgiving to not let down their guard. “You have to work together to be together,” she said.
Up to this past Monday (Nov. 16), Tunkhannock’s lower grades were meeting five days a week, and grades 8-12 were following a hybrid model of two in-school days and three out-of-school. Until Nov. 30, classes on non-vacation days in all grades will all be virtual.
There was also substantial discussion about allowing for the winter sports seasons to unfold with PIAA guidelines of practices within basketball, swimming and wrestling beginning the following Friday and concerns about a new mask mandate.
Despite the school being closed for in-school classes, the board voted unanimously to allow the sports programs to proceed.
However, later in the board meeting two members of the public came forward and challenged the preferential treatment athletes were getting and also the danger of putting them at risk in the wake of rising active COVID-19 caseloads in the community.
Board member John Burke, participating virtually in the meeting at the high school auditorium, said he took to heart the expressed concerns that were expressed by the public.
Board member William Prebola explained all of the protocols the athletic department had used in the fall season, and saw no reason they wouldn’t work for the winter seasons.
But, then in an about face, said he heard the expressions of concern and was wanting to revisit the matter and not have athletic practices to begin until after Nov. 30. That passed, 8-1, with Lori Bennett voting against the measure.
On Wednesday, the school board also:
- Approved a memorandum of understanding between TASD and the TA Educational Support Personnel Association which essentially extended the support personnel’s contract allowing for a 35 cents an hour increase in pay from 2019-20 to 2020-21.
Committed $2.5 million on last year’s financial statement for the purpose of future PSERS rate increases;
- Heard from tax collector Connie Lawrence who spoke on behalf of her peers that no increase would be requested for collection of school/property taxes during the current year;
- Approved paying Postler & Jaeckle Corp $15,600 for work performed on air handlers in the Administrative Center gym;
- Approved advisorships for the following student groups: FBLA (Lauren Colbenson), FCCLA (Lori Bishop), FFA (Steve Traver), Robotics (Scott Howell) and Skills USA (Jan Cechak), and IC student activities (Lisa Sniscak);
- Approved of Conrad Siegel Actuaries for 2020 ACA employer reporting;
- Reviewed Kelly Services substitute teacher fill rate; and
- Approved bus/van contracts as presented.
Under the superintendent’s report the board:
- Approved Karen DePietro as a long term substitute in the TAIC for the second semester;
- Approved Jennifer Jones as a long-term substitute in the TAPC from Nov. 23 to the end of the school year;
- Approved volunteers (Richard Appleby, Scott Davies, Beth Gregory, Sheri Harvatine, Robert Miller, Benjamin Siegel, and Megan Stone).
Approved coaches: girls basketball (JV/Dan Williams, fresh/Adryana Appleby, 8th/Robert Brown, 7th/Shannon Salvador); boys basketball (JV/Stan Harder, fresh/Ryan Luce, 7th/Brian Gregory), wrestling (asst/Dakota Quick, JH/Thomas Walsh, JH asst/Ray Woods, and diving (Sawyer Aitken).
- Approved scoreboard/timers for wresting (William Fassett, Charlotte carpenter, Robert Hegedty, Mike Marabell, and Tom Johnson), and for basketball (Ron Hampsey and Gabrielle Hampsey); and
- Approved lifeguards (Jodi Crimmel, Kellie Wynne, and Thurston Sick).
The school board is planning to meet again on Saturday, Nov. 28, in the high school auditorium at 7 p.m. to see where the data is at that point, to make a path forward.