By: Katherine Trowbridge
Once again, the North Franklin School District Board of Directors took time to listen to parents. John Stromer stated he is “getting pretty passionate” for his kids. He had some questions for the board during the Monday, Feb. 14, board meeting, in regard to the COVID protocols and the district. Stromer asked about HVAC upgrades, and staff training for COVID, Maintenance and Operations Director (M&O) Kelly Gregg shared the district has installed ionization to their air systems which uses negative/positive ions to purify the air and kills viruses when they go through the system. Superintendent Jim Jacobs shared the district’s school nurse did training on sanitation, masks, quarantining, etc. Administration and office staff also had training.
As discussions progressed and parents shared their frustrations with the mask mandates, they pushed the district to get behind them and create an end date. Board member Pat Hailey reminded them of her statement at the last meeting to “get a bus, and I’ll be on it with you.” Board chairman Terry Utecht said, “We are right here with you, but...” before getting cut off by a parent. Parents believe children are being mentally and emotionally harmed.
Superintendent Jacobs jumped in, “I’ve heard you, and I’m working on it.” Jacobs said that a lawsuit has been filed out of Benton Franklin Counties. Since the last meeting, he met with 23 other districts’ superintendents. Only three to four of those were willing to sign onto something. State Superintendent Chris Rykdal made a statement last week pushing the governor to stop masking students. The Governor is anticipated to make an announcement on Thursday, Feb. 17.
Parents went on to speak about how Franklin County could be willing to stop sending money to the state and fund the district locally. This is something that some felt could be against the law. Others asked if the district could declare their own state of emergency based on the mental health crisis from masking. Parents said they would like to see a letter to the state from the district. Utecht added that the board had a letter to the Governor on the agenda. The board did approve the letter and signed it that night so it could go out in the mail on Tuesday, Feb. 15. The discussions ended up with options for outdoor activities and classrooms with the weather starting to get better. Jacobs expressed that he will be checking with the county on withholding funds, look at more mask breaks for elementary students, and outdoor options.
The regular meeting featured the elementary reports where principals Cara Morrill, Lisa Flatau, and Amy Garza spoke about their after-school enrichment opportunities. At Basin City Elementary, Flatau stated that 212 of 360 students are involved in the afterschool programs.
Marcie Cox presented the federal programs report on Title I, TBIP or Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program dollars, and Title III. Most of this funding goes to staffing and student learning opportunities.
In the Superintendent's Report, Jacobs expressed he was happy to see the voters pass the levy and to know that those programs for students will continue in our district over the next two years.
Board discussion on COVID ESSER funds tied to learning loss recovery saw the benefit that funds could be used for enrichment opportunities including summer school.