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Parents to Loyalsock Township School Board: Forgo financial aid to keep control of school

“Do you want this money enough to give up control of our local school?” was the question Chawn Gehr, parent of two Loyalsock Township students, posed to the school board as board members considered passing the district’s 2021-22 Health and Safety Plan.

The money Gehr referred to was the federal government’s American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund. Districts that receive the funds are required to submit a Health and Safety Plan by July 30 detailing what they will do to facilitate the safe return to in-person instructional and non-instructional activities this fall.

Gehr and fewer than a dozen other parents at the recent board meeting argued that the district should forgo the money in order to exempt itself from any guidelines from the government, particularly the state’s Department of Health. She further contended that if they didn’t have to provide the mitigation protocols in the plan, the money would not be needed.

M. Dan Egly, district business manager and board secretary, said following the meeting that the district has already received $223,000 in ESSER I funds.

ESSER funds are divided into three rounds. The second round of funding is $945,000, which needs to be spent by June 2023. The third, $1.9 million, must be spent by June 2024.

Egly noted that the district has not yet applied for funds from ESSER II and III.

Loyalsock’s proposed Health and Safety Plan states students and staff will not be required to wear face coverings during school or on district transportation unless DOH issues an order to wear them.

The plan also affirms anyone who chooses to wear a mask may do so, and states the district will continue to monitor transmission levels in case the plan needs to be modified for higher rates.

Gehr felt that statement was too vague.

“If you proceed with doing this and the Department of Health decides to change it up, we’re all stuck. So again, local control of our schools! If you don’t want these kids masked, don’t take the money,” she said.

Another parent brought up the issue of mandating vaccinations for the coronavirus in order for students to attend school.

The proposed plan states vaccinations would not be required for students and staff, but that the district will share information from health care providers and other agencies about vaccination opportunities.

Although he did not make a motion asking for action on the issue, board member Melvin Wentzel read a statement regarding vaccinations which he had asked the board secretary to put into the meeting’s minutes.

Wentzel stated, “Given that all children require vaccinations for a variety of diseases, my position is that all eligible children aged 12 or older should be fully vaccinated prior to attending in-person education in the Loyalsock Township School District and children under age 12 and all not fully vaccinated shall be required to wear masks while in Loyalsock Township School District buildings.”

One issue both board member Marissa Moore and residents brought up was that there had been little time to study the plan before the vote was to be taken.

The plan was put on the district website and made available to board members earlier in the week for Wednesday’s meeting.

Because of that the board decided to table any vote on the plan until a special meeting July 21. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the board conference room, 1605 Four Mile Drive.

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