Madison-Plains discussion: Permit parents to attend classroom parties?

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(Posted Dec. 20, 2021)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Should the school district permit parents to attend classroom parties? That’s a question Madison-Plains Local Schools leaders will reassess at the start of 2022.

The topic came up at the Dec. 14 school board meeting when Chad Eisler, district superintendent, asked Brad Miller, principal for the K-6 building, to explain his decision to bar parents from attending holiday classroom parties.

Miller said many of the teachers did not feel comfortable having parents in the buildings at this time due to the pandemic.

“I know that the decision I have made is probably not a popular decision with some of the parents, but I had to make a decision that I felt was the best for students and our staff,” he said.

School board member Mark Mason said that with sports, music, and other school events back to normal capacity, he didn’t understand Miller’s decision. He said he respects the perspective of Miller and the teachers, but said the topic was worth discussing.

“This is something small, but I do think it has value,” Mason said.

Miller said parents most often attend classroom parties in the K-3 grade levels. Typically, that amounts to a couple of parents per classroom.

Eisler agreed with Mason that parent involvement in events like classroom parties is “part of the fabric of schools.” It’s good to have that interaction among parents, teachers, and students, he said.

“We want a vibrant school community. We want our parents involved. We want them here,” Eisler said, but he also sees the staff’s side.

“I do understand the concern for the teachers who are interfacing with that many students every day, and then you bring some more adults into the mix – I get it, I really do understand. It’s a difficult situation,” he added.

Anthoula Xenikis, school board president, said the board should respect Miller’s decision and reevaluate the idea of parents at classroom parties come January.

School board member Bryan Stonerock said the same. Like everyone, he said he is “ready to be done with the pandemic” and its impact on what once were routine events, but he respects the teachers’ input and Miller’s decision.

“They deal with it every day,” he said.

Kelly Cooley, board vice president, suggested school leaders consider adding something like an end-of-the-year party if pandemic conditions ease.

“There could be other events that we could celebrate,” she said.

Levy and facilities

Xenikis, Mason and Eisler each thanked voters for their support of the 1.25 percent income tax levy renewal, which passed by one vote in the Nov. 2 election.

“There’s a lot of potential. I’m excited for the future,” Mason said.

Eisler said the renewal, which comes with a 10-year term, helps to bring financial health and stability to the district. That, in turn, allows district leaders to have long-term discussions about programming, personnel, and facilities.

He noted the district’s permanent improvements levy is up for renewal in 2022. Permanent improvement funds can be used for projects such as facility upgrades.

“We want to have these things (finances) squared away so that hopefully we can then have that conversation about facilities because it is very, very desperately needed,” Eisler said.

Along those lines, Todd Mustain, district treasurer, reported the district had to dip into its permanent improvement funds for unexpected expenses this year.

“We have some failing infrastructure around the district that’s starting to happen a little bit more frequently,” he said.

The district appropriated $32,000 to cover the following: service for heating and air conditioning units in classrooms at the elementary and junior high; razing the maintenance barn because it was deemed unsuitable for use; purchasing a storage container to house equipment; installing a gravel driveway to the new storage container; and unexpected sewer and water operator costs.

Other business

The board approved an increase to the price for adult lunches as mandated by the United States Department of Agriculture. The new price is $4.75.

The board accepted the resignation of Chris Basil, varsity assistant football coach, and approved the employment of Sarah Marshall and Caitlynn Pitzer as substitute cooks.

Eisler said the district continues to make improvements to its mobile app, available for free through the App Store or Google Play. The app pulls information from the district website, allows users to sign up for mobile push notifications by building, and provides students with access to the Safe Schools help line, among other features.

The board named Cooley as president pro-tem for the board’s Jan. 11 annual organizational meeting which will take place at 7 p.m. in the district meeting room, followed immediately by the board’s regular monthly meeting.

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