Face masks are an option for all in USD 377 schools by way of action at the USD 377 Board of Education meeting Sept. 14 in Effingham.

Mask wearing is optional for individuals in all district-owned buildings, and only close contacts who exhibit two or more symptoms will be reported for quarantine was the decision USD 377 Board of Education members made following discussions Tuesday night in Effingham.

The motion passed by a 4-2 vote with Board President Lori Lanter and Board Member Nancy Keith the only two who voted in the negative. Board members Greg Smith, Kelli Bottorff, Jim Cormode, and Corey Neill, via Zoom platform, were in favor to allow mask wearing to be optional for all in district-owned buildings. Vice-president Barbara Chapman was absent from the meeting. Smith moved to make the masks optional.

Bottorff said numerous parents have complained to her about the pupils mask wearing recommendations. She’s been asked what good it does if the pupils and staff sit together with their masks off during lunch. People have also pointed out that the youngsters are not masked while off school properties, or when they are home. It is still an option for persons who want to wear masks.

Smith said patrons are telling him that he is an elected official now and because of that he works for them. They all say they don’t want any masks requirements, Smith said.

Lanter and Keith both agreed they have to know they’ve done all they can to ensure youngsters are protected as much as they can be from the coronavirus. Lanter and Keith also agreed on staff and students 12 years and older have the option for vaccinations. The younger students in the elementary school do not. They agreed they want to do what they think is best for the students.

Superintendent Andrew Gaddis and School Nurse Katie Madden reported about the onsite-COVID testing and the positive case statistics as related to students and staff in the district facilities.

Concerning other matters, board members:

Approved a purchase order to buy two new International buses from Midwest Transit for about $96,000 each that includes options like warranties and certain equipment. The consensus among board members was to put the order in now because of delays due to the supply shortages caused by interruptions due to the coronavirus.

The price of buses is expected to increase later this year, according to the 2020-2021 Kansas State Department of Education School Bus Bids. The previous bid pricing from the previous school years remains in effect throughout the end of October.

Gaddis explained his recommendation for International was based on consultation with Mike Lee, the district’s bus mechanic. The International buses have been in use and are durable to withstand the district’s needs. The addition of International models would be of benefit to the stock of supply of parts for maintenance and repairs. Gaddis also explained he’s consulted about the current vehicle market, and recommended instead of the trade-in to sell buses outright after rotation out of the fleet.

Approved the following personnel action as presented in the consent agenda: Accepted resignation from Corey Hinz as an elementary school aide, effective Sept. 24; a hired Anthony Simmers to serve as a part-time custodian.

Reviewed the current enrollment numbers as presented by Gaddis. Gaddis said the current numbers are showing an increase from the 2020-2021 school year, but are less than what the count was in the 2019-2020 school year.

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