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GALENA–For the time being, members of the Galena School Board seem to be in agreement that masks will be recommended but not required for students and staff during the 2021-22 school year, which gets underway with the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 18.
Superintendent Tim Vincent told the board, during a report on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations for the coming school year, that it appears at the time being that masks will be recommended and that social distancing should be maintained. He said the only place masks will be required is on school buses.
Vincent said all districts are currently navigating the mandates versus recommendations and deciding what to do. He gave the current Jo Daviess County vaccination and COVID-19 positivity rates and shared that he’d been in contact with the district’s legal counsel and liability insurance about how to handle the situation.
Vincent reported that during a call the week before with all local superintendents, Jo Daviess County Health Department officials were supportive of masks being recommended and not required, which is what Vincent thinks is appropriate for the time being, although that could change as the school year progresses.
“I would be very comfortable in getting back to normal,” said Vincent, noting other recommendations will be maintained and he will keep in close contact with the health department.
Overall, board members agreed that given the rates in the county, they believe recommending but not requiring is the way to go.
Board member John Rosenthal pointed out that following CDC recommendations makes sense to him, no matter what the state is experiencing in terms of numbers.
“Why wouldn’t we follow the CDC guidelines?” Rosenthal asked, adding that he didn’t necessarily like it when seatbelts were mandated either. “. . .But there are certain things we just have to live with, and if it keeps the spread of it down, then there’s nothing wrong with it.”
Board member Matt Blaum said that with no cases and high vaccination rates, he is comfortable with the district recommending masks but not requiring.
Earlier in the meeting, during public comments, Ashley Anderson spoke out against mask mandates, telling board members they have a choice between following the constitution and following bureaucracy.
“There’s talk of making unvaccinated children to wear masks in order to attend school. What that tells me is by one’s religious choices of being unvaccinated that person will be segregated, persecuted. To enforce the mandate, the school district will have to ignore the constitution and HIPAA laws,” Anderson said. “Under the constitution, we citizens possess the right of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. That means we can move freely without persecution due to others’ beliefs. There is no stipulation when rights can be revoked because the God-given right cannot be revoked by government. It matters in no way what the opinion of the bureaucracy such as the CDC recommends.”
In other business, the board:
•hired Katie Willey, kindergarten-eighth grade STEM teacher; Angela Ziegler, middle school secretary; Emily Skiston, half-time paraprofessional; Brooke Huttenlocker, paraprofessional; Jennifer Smith, paraprofessional; Anna Heller, district full-time cook.
•hired supplemental stipend positions for the 2021-22 school year.
•approved $1,000 Stauss loans for Henry Anderson, Sophia Heisler, Elisabeth Ludwig and Samantha Stoffregen.
•heard a brief tentative year-end financial report from Vincent.
•approved Prairie Farms as the district milk provider and Performance Food Service and Sysco-Baraboo as food products vendors for 2021-22.
•approved school fees for the 2021-22 school year. An increase was approved for lunch fees, but lunches will remain free for the year through a federal program.
•approved the 2021-22 student-parent handbook.
•appointed Shawna Bauer as the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund authorized agent.
•appointed Vincent and Patti Murphy as the district’s Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act officers for the 2021-22 school year.
•appointed Vincent as the audit reviewer.
•met in closed session for personnel matters. No action resulted.