RIMERSBURG – What will the upcoming school year look like for Union students and staff?
While plans are being put in place, and some details were released to parents last week, officials are cautioning that everything will likely continue to change until the planned first day of school on Aug. 26.
“What is approved now will not be the final version,” Union superintendent John Kimmel predicted at last week’s meeting of the district’s school board.
The board unanimously approved the district’s Health and Safety Plan, which can be viewed in full on the district’s website.
“We’re taking the approach that we are complying with the mandates put on us,” Kimmel said, adding that Union will not impose additional restrictions above and beyond state and federal mandates.
The big question for some parents in attendance related to the need for masks during the school day. Kimmel said students will be required to wear masks while transitioning between classes, as well as on the buses, but that while in their classrooms, if students can be distanced properly, they can take off their masks during class.
Kimmel also said that Union will first and foremost offer in-person instruction at the schools; however, distance learning plans are being prepared in case schools cannot operate as usual.
To help facilitate the distance learning, he said the district is looking at purchasing teachers new laptop computers that have cameras so that they can stream their lessons.
School board president Brenda Brinker noted that with guidelines and numbers changing by the day, everything this year is going to be very fluid.
“Things are being released constantly,” she said of guidance from state and federal agencies.
Kimmel addressed what he said have been a lot of comments online from parents regarding their desire to cyber-school their kids this year.
“Keep in mind the impact on the school district,” he said, explaining that Union taxpayers are responsible for paying to send students to cyber schools, and that is money taken away from Union’s regular schools and students. He said that each cyber school student costs Union $17,000 to $18,000 per school year, while special education students cost around $36,000 per year.
“It takes away from everyone else,” he said of cyber schools.
Kimmel said Union is doing its utmost to keep students safe in the school buildings, while still trying to stay as close to the normal school day as possible.
“We want students in our buildings,” he said.
One parent asked what would happen if a student is diagnosed with COVID-19. Kimmel explained that the district would follow the state Department of Health guidelines, close the school for a period of cleaning, and return to distance learning until it was deemed safe to return to school. He noted that the state has not waived the requirement to complete 180 days of school.
“We have to get 180 days in,” he said.
Addressing another parent, Kimmel said that for parents not comfortable with sending their children to school, the district would accommodate home instruction for them.
“We’ll make it an option,” he said.
Another parent, who said her children could not wear masks, was told by Kimmel that the district will have a number of face shields available if that would work. He also said that special plans for each child could be drawn up by contacting the student’s principal before the school year begins.
School officials also looked at the fall sports schedule, noting that since marching band is a graded course at Union, school officials consider the band essential to home football games. The band will not travel to away games, as a number of other schools have already said they do not want bands to accompany football teams.
And in relation to the band, officials said the students will not wear their usual band uniforms during the games since it would not be possible to properly clean them between each game. Instead, band members will be asked to wear kaki pants and a nice shirt.
• The board hired Mark Guntrum as a full-time custodian effective July 1.
• An agreement with Moore Physical Therapy to provide athletic trainer services to the district at a cost of $41,741 was approved.
• Approval was given for the purchase of a new elementary social studies curriculum, at a cost of $13,500, which will be paid for through a grant.
• Rossey Busing was hired as a bus contractor for Bus 11 during the upcoming school year.
• Richard Atzeni was hired as the assistant varsity girls basketball coach at a salary of $2,100. Board member Brade Guntrum cast the only dissenting vote. Also, Jason Johnston was hired as assistant varsity boys basketball coach at a salary of $2,160.