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Health and Safety Plan for Jersey Shore Area School District questioned | News, Sports, Jobs | #schoolsaftey

JERSEY SHORE — It was a deja vu moment at the Jersey Shore Area School District’s board meeting this week as a few members of the community addressed their concerns about the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) Funds Health and Safety Plan for the district.

The American Rescue Plan Act requires each local education agency (LEA) that receives funding under ESSER funding to develop and make publicly available on their website a Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan or a Health and Safety Plan.

During the COVID pandemic, comments and complaints about students having to wear masks, which was a part of many plans at that time, were frequently and strongly voiced at board meetings.

Monday night’s meeting presented calmer and quieter

complaints, but the topic was still brought up during the courtesy of the floor portion of the meeting.

Citing a section of the PDE, Pennsylvania Department of Education guidance template concerning the universal wearing of masks, Bob Pryor, of Mifflin Township, said, “I clicked on it and it said, ‘oops, couldn’t find anything.’”

“This requirement under the masks should not include mandatory wearing of masks or if a student doesn’t wear the mask, the removal of any student from the facility,” Pryor said.

The rules require Health and Safety plans to include how a local education agency (LEA), in this case the district, will “implement prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the reopening and operation of school facilities in order to continuously and safely open and operate schools for in-person learning.”

It further requires that the LEA states how they “will ensure continuity of services, including but not limited to services to address the students’ academic needs, and students’ and staff members’ social, emotional, mental health and other needs, which may include student health and food services.”

It also says that the LEA must say how they will “maintain the health and safety of students, educators, and other staff and the extent to which it has adopted policies, and a description of any such policy on each of the following safety recommendations established by the CDC.”

Pryor also took issue with the portion of the template which says that LEA’s must state the efforts they will take to “provide COVID-19 vaccinations to school communities.”

“That also includes mandatory vaccines. How does the district stand on this? Because you know the issues. A lot of information came through later that a lot of the stuff was false,” Pryor claimed, referring to allegations made during the pandemic.

“It wasn’t your fault, but from a national standpoint, the truth wasn’t out there. I don’t want to see this district promise to follow those regulations because they’re made by bureaucrats. Let’s face it, they’re not elected. I don’t think our children and grandchildren should be forced to wear a mask, especially during athletics,” Pryor said, adding, “so where does the district stand?”

At the beginning of the meeting, board president Mary Thomas had stated that there was a change in the wording of the Health and Safety Plan that the board was voting on.

“The change is the district will comply with the present and future orders at the discretion of the board,” Thomas stated.

The section in the plan Thomas referred to is on the requirement on the “correct and universal wearing of masks.”

The strategies, policies and procedures originally stated that the “district will comply with that and any future orders.”

Jersey Shore resident Tim McDonald thanked the board for modifying the requirement, but also urged the district to modify the part of the health and safety plan which stated that “the district will comply with all state orders in effect and notify staff and families of any necessary changes while operating schools.”

The guidelines for the health and safety plan state that, “Each LEA must create a Health and Safety Plan that addresses how it will maintain the health and safety of students, educators and other staff, and which will serve as local guidelines for all instructional and non-instructional school activities during the period of the LEA’s ARP ESSER grant.”

McDonald asked the board how much funding the district has received from the ESSER fund grant.

“After Sept. 30 of this year, we are on the third round of extra benefits until February of 2024,” said Superintendent Brian Ulmer.

“The total was, I think, $3.6 to $3.7 million. Some of it is spent, so I think we’re around the one and quarter to one million range that is still to be spent,” Ulmer said.

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