CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee board members and administrators discussed COVID-19 safety procedures, remote learning issues, and access to arts education during their regular monthly meeting Thursday, Sept. 10.
Middle school art teacher Kim Willoughby expressed concern about music and art education being divided between the Camden Primary and Junior/Senior High facilities as a result of the recent closure of West Elkton Intermediate School, which resulted in 88 fourth-grade students from West Elkton being relocated to Camden Primary and 207 fifth and sixth-graders being moved to the Junior and Senior High.
“I really wanted to stress that, while I think the kids could probably get some music over here, the thought of [students] only getting music and art every other year – or not getting art at all – is upsetting,” Willoughby said.
Willoughby suggested hiring a new elementary art teacher to work at Camden Primary.
“Our kids already struggle for extra classes to take and other things to do, and the arts are very important,” Willoughby said.
Board president Julie Singleton and board member Gary Rader each expressed support for arts education, up to and including the hiring of a new teacher.
“If it’s something that we can make happen, and we see that there’s a need for it, we will,” Rader said.
Back to School
District principals are reporting “an extremely busy, crazy, and yet positive start” to the 2020-21 school year, according to Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop.
Staff members have been checking students’ temperatures as they arrive at school, Bishop said, and sending those with a potential fever to the nurse’s office. One student whose temperature didn’t return to normal after a few minutes had been sent home by the time of last week’s meeting, according to Bishop, but was later found to be suffering from an ear infection rather than the flu or Covid-19.
Board member Nick Duskey asked whether students were being allowed to carry backpacks in order to avoid having to travel to and from their lockers between classes. High school student Caiden Duskey reported that this was the case.
“Teachers have said that they might be more lax about it because they don’t want kids gathering at their lockers,” she said.
Parent Kate Duskey reminded board members that rules against backpacks had initially been put into place because of “fear of a disgruntled or mentally ill student” using them to bring guns into school.
“I want to make sure that we don’t de-emphasize active shooter threats,” Duskey said. Singleton agreed.
“We made a lot of changes due to safety protocols, and I don’t want to lose sight of that,” Singleton said.
Masks and Remote Learning
Rules for when students and staff are required to wear masks are still being debated, with Bishop suggesting that students be allowed to remove them as long as they are seated more than six feet apart or there is a physical barrier in place.
“If they get up to go to the pencil sharpener, they need to put on the mask,” Bishop said.
Teachers expressed concern about remote learning students exercising their option to return to in-person classes within two weeks of the beginning of the term, saying that it disrupts classes and makes social distancing more difficult.
“It’s challenging,” Willoughby said of the online curriculum taken by remote students. “It’s not like the end of last year when we were just throwing something together. I think [some students] thought it would be a lot easier than it is.”
Bishop admitted that the district is “close to the point” where they will have to stop allowing students to switch between in-person and remote options.
West Elkton Intermediate closure
Bishop reported that utilities at the West Elkton facility have not yet been shut off, nor has the sewer line connecting to the school been severed.
Rader suggested that the district begin researching the cost of asbestos removal and demolition of the facility, while Singleton raised the option of giving it to the village of West Elkton.
“I don’t want that school to look like Gratis,” Rader said, suggesting that allowing the building to remain standing, or even “selling it to West Elkton for one dollar,” could result in it being left to rot and become a blight on the community.
Preble Shawnee Board of Education meetings are held the second Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Junior and Senior High Media Center.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish