(Posted Jan. 11, 2022)
Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
COVID-19 safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to be a moving target, giving school districts like Jefferson Local short notice when changes go into effect regarding masking, vaccines, and quarantine.
At the Jan. 10 school board meeting, Superintendent William Mullett announced the district is implementing the CDC’s latest guidelines. Effective Jan. 11, the district is amending the amount of quarantine time required for students and staff who test positive for the virus.
According to the new guidelines, individuals who test positive are allowed to return to school after five days of isolation instead of 10. They must be either asymptomatic or with symptoms resolving themselves without a fever or without the individuals taking fever-reducing medication. Upon returning to school, they must wear a face covering for the five-day period between the six to10 days they would have been in isolation.
“Hopefully, this will allow people to get back to school earlier,” said Mullett, noting that 212 positive cases have been reported within the school district since the start of the school year.
There were 61 documented cases since the return from winter break and, as of Jan. 10, 42 active cases reported.
“Our goal is to have as much in-person instruction as we can, dependent on staffing,” Mullett said.
Tom Kitchen, president of the local education union, said he feels teachers have done a good job overall at keeping school doors open and kids in class. While he fears the district might reach the point where it needs to go on remote learning, he hopes that is not the case.
Kitchen estimated that approximately 17 percent of middle school students were absent on Jan. 10.
If modifications need to be made, Kitchen asked the board to give teachers a day to prepare for any transition. He also felt full-scale presentations should be curtailed.
“I’m asking the board to consider suspending school assemblies for the time being,” Kitchen said.
In other business, district treasurer Mark Ingles asked the board to approve the establishment of the William Lenz Sr. and William Lentz Jr. Scholarship Fund. Both men were West Jefferson graduates. The fund was established by Wilma Lentz, the widow of William Lentz Jr., and will provide $10,000 scholarships to two athletes on an annual basis.
The school board also approved a $2,500 donation from Pepsi Cola Bottlers, a $3,500 zero-turn mower for the operations department from an anonymous donor, and a $5,490 donation from the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office to the operations department for district security upgrades.
CMH4 Amazon donated $7,000 in personal and household items to 30 Norwood Elementary families. The items included: vacuum cleaners; winter coats; health care items such as shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant; pillows and pillow covers; blankets; socks; underwear and sweatpants.
“We talked about several options, but these were items they don’t necessarily get but things they need,” said Principal Sue Barte. “(Amazon) reached out to me because they wanted to do something for the community.”
Prior to the regular meeting, the board held its annual organizational meeting and elected Dr. Meg Hiss as board president for 2022 and Whitney Duemmel as vice president.