During the Northampton Area School District Board of Directors meeting, Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik presented proposed revisions to the district’s health and safety plan. The plan, which made masks mandatory, was last approved in August. A week later, the State required masks in all schools. That mandate expires in January. Northampton will need to implement a revised plan, or its August plan will go back into effect.
Kovalchik presented two options: mask-mandatory and mask-optional. The mask-optional plan requires a mitigation plan should cases rise. If the number of positive cases reaches a certain threshold, said Kovalchik, masks would be mandatory for seven days in the affected school building. For example, masks would be required after seven positive cases in Moore Elementary and 24 in the high school. Masks will still be required in nurses’ offices and on buses, per federal mandate.
Quarantine revisions were also proposed. Students will quarantine if a member of their household tests positive. If a student in school tests positive, fellow students will not quarantine unless they display symptoms.
A third option was proposed by school board member Robert Mentzell. He asked that masks be required for students in grades K through 5 until parents have the opportunity to get their children vaccinated. He said parents of high schoolers and middle schoolers had more time to schedule vaccinations, while vaccines for children ages five to 11 have only opened up this month.
As with past meetings, a group of parents opposed to required mask-wearing spoke up during public comment. They referenced claims of increased chances of carbon dioxide poisoning caused by masks, gene pool alterations caused by the vaccine, and sudden death caused by the vaccine (none of these claims are supported by the CDC or medical researchers).
The board did not vote on the health and safety plan. It is expected to vote in an upcoming meeting before the state mandate expires.
In other news, the board approved the district to begin the contracting process for a potential elementary school at Route 329 and Seemsville Road. Contracts with D’Huy Engineering and KCBA architectural services will be prepared.
“This does not mean that a building will be built,” said Kovalchik. He said he doesn’t anticipate construction even starting for three to four years.
The approval does not mean the disposition of Moore Elementary, Franklin Elementary, the Washington Technology Building, or the District Administration Building, though Kovalchik admitted the district does have issues with those buildings. Estimates from several years ago predicted a renovation cost of $70 million for the buildings or a cost of $71 million to construct the new building.
Directors James Chuss, Kim Bretzik, and Dr. Michael Baird voted against the contracts.
Chuss said he would like to explore bond options and would prefer a second evaluation of Moore Elementary.
The board also discussed complaints regarding a book available in the district’s e-book library. The district is part of a local consortium that shares books via an e-book platform called Sora.
Parents have complained about “The Pride Guide: A Guide to Sexual and Social Health for LGBTQ Youth.” For a book to be removed from the library, the consortium must vote. In the past decade, only two books have been removed.
Finally, the evening’s meeting marked the last meeting for director Roy Maranki. Maranki has served for eight years on the board. During that time, he has served on several committees and started the annual car show, which has raised over $20,000 for the high school’s student council.
“The success of our students starts at home,” Maranki said, thanking parents for their support over the years.
He also thanked Kovalchik. “You have been instrumental in the district’s growth,” he said.
He thanked fellow board members and also made sure to thank every member of the NASD community, from maintenance workers to administrators to teachers.
“We have accomplished a lot together.”