WEST ALEXANDRIA — Twin Valley South Board of Education members and administrators discussed mask mandates, enrollment for the district’s new preschool program and board seats going up for election later this year during their regular monthly meeting Monday, July 26.
Superintendent Scott Cottingim announced that the district’s mask policy would be rescinded for the 2021-22 school year, saying that the Ohio Dept. of Public Health “strongly recommends,” but does not currently mandate, the wearing of face coverings in public schools.
“Hand-washing and some sort of social distancing will still be in effect,” Cottingim said. “But masks will be a district’s choice and a parent’s choice.”
Board member Jason DeLong stated he “[didn’t] think there’s going to be much pushback” on hand-washing and social distancing guidelines, but he and parent Trisha Arndts asked that the board and the public be informed should requirements from the government become more strict. Arndst previously addressed the board on the mask issue in May.
“The mask was a major heartburn for a lot of us,” Cottingim said. “If there’s anything out of the norm, we will have a board meeting to discuss it.”
DeLong moved to adopt a policy of notifying the public of any meetings between school administrators and public health officials during the board’s May 24 meeting. Preble County Public Health met with superintendents from all five local school districts prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year; decisions about response to the pandemic, including mask mandates and social distancing guidelines, were reportedly made based on the content of those meetings.
DeLong and board member Matt Lunsford suggested that such decisions should require board oversight; board members Jim Pemberton, Christine Bitner and Tim Beneke disagreed. DeLong’s motion was ultimately defeated by a margin of three to two.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in 23 Ohio counties resume wearing masks indoors, citing increased spread of new variants of the COVID-19 virus. The CDC currently rates spread of the virus in Preble County as “substantial,” with two dozen cases reported in the last week and approximately 33 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
Cottingim updated the board on plans for the district’s new preschool program, saying that enrollment is full and the program is “ready to go.”
Cottingim previously touted the progress of the preschool program in April, saying that designing the program had been “a massive undertaking requiring a whole lot of research.”
“We only get a chance to launch this once, so we want to get it right,” Cottingim said in April.
South previously operated a preschool program in cooperation with the Preble County Educational Service Center (ESC), but that agreement resulted in the district “paying a fairly large number to the ESC on a yearly basis,” according to DeLong.
Cottingim said there is still a waitlist for enrollment in the preschool program, and that additional spots may be added if necessary, and if demand is great.
Board president Tim Beneke reminded community members present that multiple Board of Education seats will be up for election in November. Applications to be considered for one of those seats are due Wednesday, Aug. 4 by 4 p.m., according to Beneke.
“If you want to see what it’s like from this side of the table, now’s the time to do it,” Beneke said.
Twin Valley Community Local 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