CAMDEN — Preble Shawnee Local School District Board of Education members elected board officers, and discussed COVID-19 vaccinations and the future of upcoming senior events, during their first monthly meeting of 2021 on Thursday, Jan. 14.
Current Vice President Jeff Wood nominated Board President Julie Singleton to once again fill that position; board member Gary Rader then nominated Wood to continue in his own post. Both nominations were approved by remaining board members by unanimous vote.
Superintendent Dr. Matt Bishop recognized the assembled board members in honor of Board Member Appreciation Month.
“I want to say thanks to our five returning board members for everything they do for the district,” Bishop said.
Senior class concerns
Senior and Student Senate member Chad Doran addressed the board about challenges in raising funds for certain yearly events due to restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
“There’s a lack of funding, which makes it harder to do stuff like prom, senior breakfast, and graduation,” Doran said.
Doran expressed the desire of the senior class to return to a sense of normalcy following the events of the past school year, in which schools throughout Ohio went to a remote learning model, and events such as prom and graduation were held in an atypical manner or not at all.
“We want to make this year as normal as we can make it,” Doran said.
Doran also expressed the frustration of the senior class with guidelines restricting the number of people who can attend school sporting events.
“We’d like to go to at least one game, because that’s something we’ve missed out on,” Doran said. “We’d like to go to one game, if possible.”
Doran also suggested holding pep rallies outdoors in the spring.
“We want to be able to do this stuff, but nobody wants to get excited because we don’t know if it’ll be able to happen or not,” Doran said. “On behalf of my classmates, anything that can be done would be greatly appreciated.”
Preble Shawnee Local Education Association (PSLEA) president Kim Willoughby told the board that the PSLEA was considering making a donation to the senior class in hopes of offsetting their funding difficulties. Willoughby said the donation might be approximately $500.
Bishop said that doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were expected to be made available to staff members sometime in February. Bishop also stated that he and other county superintendents had recently met with local physician Dr. Jill Vosler to discuss the vaccine.
“I walked out of there thinking there was no doubt I would be getting the vaccine, and encouraging my wife and daughter to get it as well,” Bishop said. “I’m getting it, and I would encourage everybody to get the vaccine.”
Rader, who was the one board member present not wearing a mask, laughed in response to Bishop’s statements.
“You can be the guinea pig,” Rader said.
Singleton expressed appreciation for school nurse Lori Cottingim, whose department makes regular updates on the prevalence of COVID-19 available via the school district’s website.
“I wanted to call her out specifically,” Singleton said. “She’s really doing a great job, and she wants to keep the kids in school, but also knows that we need to follow the rules.”
Finally, sixth-grade intervention specialist Krista Brandner and others expressed concern that the loss of Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds might encourage some staff members to report to work even if they’re feeling ill.
CARES funding previously made it possible for staff members forced to self-quarantine to miss up to 10 days of work without having to use sick pay. That additional funding has recently expired, however.
Willoughby expressed similar concerns, saying that National Trail Local School District and Eaton City Schools would continue to honor unused “COVID days” until the end of March. Willoughby also stressed that first-year teachers at Shawnee only receive 15 sick days each year.
“If you quarantine for 10 days, that leaves five sick days for the entire rest of the year,” Willoughby said. “You don’t want anybody to put other people’s health at risk because they’re afraid to miss work.”
“That’s a legitimate concern,” Wood said. “It does seem wrong that you can be screwed over for doing the right thing and making the right decision [by staying home].”
Willoughby also said that additional “Sick Bank” days donated by teachers to help colleagues who suffer an unexpected catastrophic illness are currently unable to be used due to COVID.
“We feel really strongly that COVID should count for that, because it says catastrophic, and I think a pandemic is pretty catastrophic,” Willoughby said.
Preble Shawnee Board of Education meetings take place the third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Junior and Senior High School Media Center.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish