(Posted June 9, 2020)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Educators and parents of school-age children are wondering the same thing: What will the face of education look like when the 2020-21 school year starts amid concerns for public health?
“There’s just a lot of planning and ideas and creative suggestions being made to decide what are the best practices and what we can do to serve and educate our students,” said David Harper, president of the Jefferson Local Schools board of education, at the board’s June 8 meeting. “I know the types of services schools can offer is a big issue.”
Harper, who also serves as the board’s legislative liaison, reported on House and Senate bills winding their way through the 133rd state General Assembly that directly affect education, from transportation to a district’s ability to open and close as necessary.
House Bill 627 exempts school districts and education centers from prohibitions against reductions in student transportation. It would allow districts and centers to make adjustments in their transportation schedules in a timely manner.
Senate Bill 320, introduced on June 8, would give public and private schools local power to control their own decisions in opening for instruction for the 2020-21 school year and prohibits other public officials from closing schools in the same year.
If a district like Jefferson Local opens its buildings for instruction, the local board of education would determine what health safety measures and guidelines to implement in addressing COVID-19.
The school board could close schools if the superintendent determines the action is necessary. According to the proposed legislation, no other public officer would have the power to prohibit a district from opening or closing buildings.
Jefferson Local Schools Superintendent William Mullett said a lot of questions and confusion exists at every level, but he expects electronic-based learning as an option to be much more rigorous than it was at the end of this past school year.
“I think we will probably start school under a new normal,” he said. “Most people want to come back to school. They want that normalcy in their life. However, I think we’re not going to have a definitive answer until mid-July.”
During the June meeting, which was broadcast live on Facebook, the board approved more than two dozen extracurricular contracts, from sports coaches to class, spelling contest, art show and student council advisors.
Mullett said that while the board is proceeding as if the activities will return as normal, the contracts will not be filled if things change and advisors and coaches are not needed.
The hunt is on for a new school district treasurer after the board hired the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) to advertise for, screen and recommend candidates to replace interim treasurer, Kristine Blind.
Blind also serves as London City Schools treasurer and replaced Jill Smith, who retired after serving 15 years with Jefferson Local.
“OSBA will run the basic search according to their process for about a month,” Mullett said, “and hopefully we’ll run the second round of interviews in July and have someone start August 1.”