No masks required for CW students; plus other CW Schools news

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Students in Canal Winchester Schools will not be required to wear masks when school begins.

“As of today, July 19, masks will not be required for our students,” said Canal Winchester Schools Superintendent James Sotlar. “They will be optional; allowable. As we start the school year, we want to get back as normal as possible. We also want to make sure that everyone wearing a mask is respected for their beliefs and what they’re comfortable with.”

Sotlar said if an order comes down from the governor or health department, which changes the “ball game,” the district will have to follow the orders. Currently, the district still plans to follow hand washing and sanitizing protocols as much as possible.

Sotlar said social distancing, with all students back in school buildings, is “practically impossible” within the three-to-six-foot range.

“However, we’re going to do the best we can at times to spread kids out,” said Sotlar, who added the district is waiting on guidelines from the governor or public health department regarding transportation. “Just be patient with us, that’s all I ask.”

Sotlar said there will be challenges with lunch routines and knowing what quarantine regulations will be in place for the school year. He anticipated there will still be a need for seating charts in the cafeterias to know where students are located.

“That’s information we’re still waiting on from public health officials,” Sotlar said. “Kids need to be in school—plain and simple—five days a week.”

Other CW Schools news
•Canal Winchester Schools Treasurer Nick Roberts said, despite the COVID-19 shutdown, the district insurance financial report indicates claims are up nearly 17 percent, resulting in an almost $1.2 million jump over the last two years.

“That’s a pretty big increase,” said Roberts, who said the district will need to work with the insurance committee to come up with plan design changes. “I’m not saying anything drastic, just to try and change behavior. The emergency room co-pay, for example, is $75 right now. Maybe back that up to $200 or $150. That kind of changes where people go.”

At the end of fiscal year 2020, premiums for employees and board members totaled over $6 million. A year later, the number was nearly $6.5 million. Total expenditures for claims, management, and third-party claims administration in 2020 was $5.6 million. For 2021, that amount jumped to more than $6.5 million.

“We did have a bad year regarding some high claims,” Roberts said before pointing out eight claims were at the $100,000 threshold. “Those are expected. Those are things the plan is ready for. At the end of the day, plan design changes are what lead to behavior changes. I’m not saying a high deductible. I’m saying start knocking away a little at a time.”

When Roberts was hired by the district five years ago, approximately 270 employees were plan members. Today, that number is approaching 390 and many employees are switching from waiving their enrollment to picking up insurance offered by the district.

“Couple that with rising costs,” said Roberts, who added bargaining agreements include language addressing insurance plan evaluations over the next three years.

•The Canal Winchester Board of Education approved a resolution joining a coalition of schools calling the deduction of school voucher funds from districts harmful to pupils, taxpayers, voters and staff.

“A lot of central Ohio school districts are going to be a part of this,” said Roberts. “They (state legislators) got a lot through that is going to hurt public schools in the long run. Some of this is pushing the boundaries of public education or where public tax dollars are intended to go. The time is now to fight back and be part of something that’s going to be talked about in history for a long time.”

Roberts said he does not have an issue with money following students. He is concerned with tax money paid by the public to educate a child in a public school being distributed by the state to a private institution with no accountability. Until that accountability piece is put in place with private schools, Roberts said he will always have a problem with it.

“We have to do tons and tons of paperwork when it comes to accountability and all of these things in the private schools are not done to the same standard,” said Roberts. “If you’re going to give tax dollars to them, then hold them to the same standard that we’re being held to.”

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