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Re-3 Board of Education hears from public about masking – The Fort Morgan Times | #Education | #parenting | #parenting | #kids


The Morgan County School District Re-3 Board of Education held its regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 16, at the District Support Center.

Public Comments

The meeting started with a fairly unique situation of over 60 community members — most being parents of school-age children — showing up to the meeting to protest the possibility of mask mandates in the district’s schools.

Megan Carruth, a nurse and mother, was in attendance to present the unpopular opinion in the room: masks should be required in schools for both children and teachers. Because she has seen the effects of COVID-19 firsthand in her profession, Carruth urged Board members to take precautions and create a strategic plan to avoid another shutdown and to make sure children and teachers are kept safe.

“I have children in this district in every level of education, kindergarten through high school. I’ve said since the beginning of the pandemic — I’ve worked the front lines — that we have to follow the science, and I’m here to advocate for the health of the children and the teachers that are in your (the district’s) care. I don’t think that it’s right to mandate vaccinations across the board. I do think it is right to mandate something that protects those who are unable to protect themselves,” said Carruth, referring to the fact that children aged 11 and under are not currently eligible to receive the vaccine. “It is your (the district’s) responsibility as an education community to protect those children. I need my kids to get a good education, and I need them to be safe. Following the science shows us that universal masking and universal source control is the only way that we have to keep our kids safe and in school.”

Amy Grantham, a local business owner and mother, presented the opposing view “on behalf of the Morgan parents, students, staff and community members both present and absent” that masks should be optional instead of required. She argued that masks would distract from learning by creating “visual and auditory obstructions” and asked the district to “consider our rights and act accordingly.” Grantham also directed the Board’s attention to a nine-page letter, emailed to Board members earlier in the day, with cited sources and over 400 signatures to support her argument.

“I speak for everyone when I say that as parents, taxpayers, staff and students, we will always advertise our right to advocate for ourselves, our kids, our public school systems and our employment. At this point, there has been significant enough information released that parents and staff have the resources they need to make the educated decisions regarding health and wellbeing on an individual and familial basis. According to the public sources that dictated the health guidelines for the past 18 months, people aged 0-25 are in the lowest risk category with a mortality rate of less than 1%, even during peak infection rate times,” said Grantham. “As a collective, we are respectfully calling on the school board to carry out the duties that you were elected to preform… which is to provide children with an access to a high quality public education that each individual in this sovereign nation is entitled to.”

While Board members are not permitted to respond directly to public comments, the Morgan County School District Re-3 did release a statement regarding COVID-19 protocols: “The guiding priority for Morgan County School District Re-3 is to keep children in school, in person, learning in the safest environment possible. Following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) guidance, Morgan County School District Re-3 strongly recommends vaccination for all eligible people. In addition, the District will use a layered approach to protecting students and staff that may include distancing, hand hygiene, symptom screening, routine cleaning, respiratory etiquette (coughing/ sneezing in your elbow), ventilation, masking, and testing, depending on the situation. Masks are strongly recommended but are not required at this time; this could change depending on disease incidence rates.”

The CDC does require all passengers and drivers on school busses to wear a mask.

Anyone diagnosed with COVID-19, including anyone who was in close contact with the diagnosed, is required to follow the isolation guidelines of quarantining at home for ten days.

Students experiencing symptoms are strongly encouraged to stay home, and anyone attending school with a fever of 100.4 degrees or greater will be sent home.

If visiting another school district for athletic events or other reasons, one is expected to follow that district’s protocols.

Special Presentations

The Board welcomed two of the district’s newest principals to speak at the meeting.

Tara Boyer is the principal at Sherman Early Childhood Center, which provides education for preschoolers and kindergartners. Boyer, who has been a principal for eight years, gave a brief personal introduction and shared her goal to help the state of Colorado recognize the importance of early childhood education.

Aron Jones is the principal at Pioneer Elementary School, where he has been for the past year. Jones started his education career with 12 years of teaching before transitioning into an administrative role as principal, which he has pursued for the past 10 years. This year marks his 11th year serving as a principal.

Reports

Re-3 Superintendent Dr. Randy Miller added open houses to the administrative report, most of which were scheduled to occur between Aug. 16-18, and invited Board members to attend.

Wednesday, Aug. 18, open houses included the following: Baker Elementary (4-5 p.m.), Columbine Elementary (4:30-5:30 p.m.), Fort Morgan Middle School (5-6 p.m.) and Fort Morgan High School (6:30-8 p.m.).

Sherman Early Childhood Center’s kindergarten open house will be held on Aug. 24 with times scheduled by each teacher, and the dates and times of Sherman’s preschool open house have not yet been announced. Pioneer Elementary will hold its open house on Aug. 31 from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Assessment Dr. Rena Frasco spoke next about grant opportunities and updates, announcing that the district secured a $90,000 grant from Colorado’s School Counselor Corps Grant Program (SCCGP), which will be put towards salaries and benefits for additional counseling support.

“We have full-time counselors now in all of our buildings, thanks to some ESSERs money and the School Counselor Corps Grant, and I think it’s going to be a phenomenal counseling team,” said Frasco. “In addition to that, we have allocated some money for outside therapists to come into the school and try and get some art therapy going, so I’m super excited because we all know that mental health matters.”

Frasco announced that she approved for Himanshu Sharma, a math teacher at Fort Morgan High School, to apply for a grant through Next Gen Personal Finance. Sharma received a $10,000 grant to put towards personal finance courses at FMHS.

Frasco also announced that the District received an additional $5,000 from a state library grant, which will be put towards library budgets and result in the purchase of more books.

Financial Advisor Mike Lee then introduced Toni Miller, the Board’s new Chief Financial Officer, recognizing that she is bringing “a tremendous amount of experience and skill set” with her to the district. Lee then went over the Summary of Revenues and Expenditures, specifically going into more detail about the Insurance Fund on page five of this report.

“It was a very strong year for the District,” said Lee, who also stated that they are coming into the 2021-22 school year in a good place. “We’re right on track with the budget. The surplus came out right where we thought it was going to be.”

Human Resources Director Dr. Brian Childress updated the board on staffing, admitting that it was a difficult hiring year across the entire state. However, Fort Morgan ended up hiring 10 J-1 employees, which was more than it had in the past. Childress also mentioned that they invested in people to train teachers in preparation to receive Alternative Teacher Licenses. While there is still a noticeable teacher shortage, Childress said he was not concerned for the students, especially thanks to the principals and their continued hard work.

English Language Development Director Shelly Ocanas wrapped up the reports with information on the English Language Proficiency Act (ELPA) funds, which were falsely rumored to be getting cut in half. Ocanas clarified that the ELPA funds were being cut across the entire state of Colorado, but the Re-3 District is still going to receive over $233,400 in program funds for the 2021-22 year.

Discussion Items

Lee led the discussion about a 2021 mill levy ballot question on behalf of the board, informing the community of an upcoming opportunity in November to make necessary improvements at the Legion Field complex. The current wooden bleachers and restroom facilities on the visitor’s side of the stadium are not ADA Compliant and are also in need of replacement due to safety concerns. Legion Field improvements could also include updates to the Junior Varsity field, an improved drainage system, enhanced parking lots and possibly a new soccer field. Because final 2011 payments will be completed in the fall, Lee explains that the Legion Field projects should be able to be completed without raising taxes, much like the FMHS renovations.

Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) Policies from June 30, 2021, were then presented for a second time.

Action Items

The 12 action items on the board’s agenda began with the approval of the previously discussed 2021 mill levy ballot question, which will result in the question’s placement on the Nov. 2, 2021, ballot.

A 2021-22 Resolution for Remote Learning was approved.

The board approved for a video production course to be added to the 2021-22 Fort Morgan High School Registration Guide in hopes that students will be able to sign up for the course as early as the Spring 2022 semester.

The 2021-22 Fort Morgan Education Association of Supervisory and Administrative Personnel (MASAP) Master Agreement and Memo of Understanding were both passed, in addition to the 2021-24 Association of Classified Personnel (ACP) Master Agreement and Memo of Understanding.

The 2021-22 District goals were approved and included the following four goals: The Fort Morgan graduation rate for the school year will be at least 82%; 100% of eligible senior students at the start of the year will graduate; the high school completion rate will be at least 85%; the District-wide attendance rate will be at least 95.5%.

The 2021-22 Charge for the District Accountability Committee (DAC) was approved, which will contribute to researching the advantages and disadvantages of having a four-day school week in the district.

The Assistant Chief Financial Officer position, held by Pennie Haller since August 2020, and salary was approved.

Longevity bonuses, which are awarded for three, seven, 14, 21 and 27 consecutive years of employment in the District, for 2021-22 staff members were also approved. Administrative staff members who qualify will receive their bonus in the September payroll.

Advanced Planning

Classes begin on Thursday, Aug. 19, marking the beginning of the 2021-22 school year.

The next Re-3 Board of Education meeting will be held on Sept. 20.



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