WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley Community Local School District discussed policy regarding public health mandates, technology upgrades for K-6 students, and turnout for the district’s summer school program during its regular monthly meeting on Monday, June 28.
Board member Jason DeLong made a motion for the district to begin notifying the public of any planned meetings between school administrators and public health officials. DeLong also stated that school board members should be allowed to attend such meetings in addition to school superintendents.
DeLong first suggested such a policy during the district’s May 24 board meeting, citing meetings between Preble County Public Health officials and superintendents from all five local school districts at which county-wide response to the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed, including mask mandates and social distancing guidelines.
DeLong suggested that such decisions were “outside the normal scope of K-12 education” and should require more board member oversight.
Board member Jim Pemberton disagreed, however.
“We hired someone to go to those meetings as our representative and bring it back to us,” Pemberton said. “It feels like we’re micro-managing our superintendent, and I’m struggling with that.”
Board President Tim Beneke expressed similar sentiments.
“We hired this guy to bring back recommendations to the board – if I wanted his job, I would’ve put my name in the hat,” Beneke said. “I have full faith in our superintendent.”
Board member Matt Lunsford sided with DeLong, suggesting it was “not fair” for the superintendent to be expected to make decisions regarding public health.
“We’ve hired no educator, anywhere, to deal with a pandemic – that would be like asking him to deal with a terrorist event,” Lunsford said, to which DeLong agreed.
“That’s a lot for one guy or one girl to deal with without any interaction from the other board members,” DeLong said. DeLong also referenced differences in policy regarding COVID-19 between school districts, with “some being more stringent and some being much less.”
DeLong’s motion was ultimately defeated by a margin of three to two, with DeLong and Lunsford voting in favor.
K-6 Principal Patti Holly informed the board that turnout for the district’s summer school program had been impressive.
“They showed up the first day excited, and they were crying when they had to leave,” Holly said, stating that 12 kindergartners, 20 first-grade students, 17 second and seven fifth-graders had signed up for the program.
Holly first informed the board of additional state funding for summer school programs in February, saying it would be beneficial for elementary school students “to make sure they have the foundational skills to move on to the next level” in light of remote learning and other restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
The program, including supplies, teacher salaries, and bussing, was paid for entirely using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, according to Holly, with students attending 30-minute classes between 8:30 a.m. and noon each day.
“It was a powerful three weeks for those kids,” Holly said.
Technology Coordinator Derrick Myers previously informed the board that all students in grades K-6 would receive personal ChromeBooks during the 2021-22 school year. 7-12 students are already on a “1-to-1” model, according to Myers; the devices are collected and stored alphabetically over the summer so that each student receives the same one the following year.
Fifth and sixth-grade students will be required to take their devices home each day to be charged, according to Myers, while those belonging to younger kids will remain on school grounds.
“There’s still a greater sense of responsibility, but those will stay at school,” Myers said. Myers also informed the board that the school’s Game Club will receive new computers in hopes of transitioning the club into a full-fledged e-sports program.
Funding for the new technology upgrades came primarily through a $15,000 grant from Eaton-based manufacturing company Silfex, Inc., according to treasurer Tearalee Riddlebarger, with an additional $3,000 being drawn from the district’s General Operations fund.
Twin Valley Community School District Board of Education meetings take place the fourth Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in the High School Media Center.
Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook @mproperenglish