In a 6-3 vote, the Nazareth School District Board of Directors passed an amendment to the district’s COVID-19 health and safety plan during their meeting on January 25. This amendment will remove tiered mask mitigation, remove contact tracing, and remove vaccine requirements for volunteers and visitors. Another amendment that would remove quarantine requirements was tabled to a later date. Masks will be optional in schools, but still required on school buses.
“This just seems to continually go around and around,” said Wayne Simpson, the school director who made the motion to amend. “[Let us] get back to educating our students, not being the police of our kids.”
The motion came following public comment, during which time Jennifer Simon, a parent, presented a draft of a plan she says mirrors that of other mask-optional schools in the state. The plan she presented removes mask requirements, tiered mitigation, and contact tracing.
Some parents and even some members of the board expressed concern that the directors would vote on a plan presented by a member of the public and not vetted by faculty or health experts. The district’s original health and safety plan took several months to complete and featured input from a committee of teachers and healthcare professionals from St. Luke’s.
“The proposal this evening is rash and potentially very dangerous to our students,” said resident Jeffrey Hotz. “What you have here is essentially scrapping the health and safety plan without a thorough review…board members have not seen a written plan; the public has not seen a written plan.”
Hotz cited the school district’s spike in COVID-19 cases before the holidays as a “cautionary tale.”
“You are embarking on a fool’s errand that could have very negative repercussions…on students, on faculty…and the reputation of our school district,” he continued.
School director Kenneth Butz asked whether the amendments could go before the district’s health and safety committee. While not disbanded, the committee has not met since the original plan was rolled out.
“I haven’t even had time to read this,” he said. “It should be reconsidered by administration, side by side, and then brought to the board.”
The decision to remove quarantine requirements for positive students and students who have positive cases in their household was most contentious. By removing quarantine requirements, a student with positive symptoms could still return to school without mask requirements. Currently, students who have tested positive must quarantine for 10 days.
“We need to ask families to be aware,” said school director Jodi L. Mammana. “If you have something, do not send your kids to school. It is just common sense to me.”
“You are suggesting there be a rule with common decency, [but you are] contradicting yourself,” countered parent Jessica Dieck. “Kids are still being sent to school sick…so where is the common decency?”
While the most vocal individuals present were parents, Nazareth parent and teacher Susan Klotz wanted to remind the audience who these plans are affecting.
“These individuals that are speaking about all of these things that are right [or] that should happen are not in the classroom,” she said. “They are not sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with children, they are not in the trenches every single day…keeping them safe could be Covid-related or an active shooter…[and] I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do that and still give 125%.”
With such a complex debate, the decision to remove quarantine requirements was tabled for a future meeting. The final vote came down to removing tiered masking, vaccine requirements, and contact tracing. Directors Gregory Leh, Melissa Kalinoski, Mammana, Kathryn Roberts, Simpson, and Linda Stubits voted in favor. Directors Butz, Adam McGlynn, and Joseph Vasko voted against.
“I would not be able to support this as written,” said Vasko. “I would really want faculty to take a look at this so we can get their feedback…They’re the ones in the building.”
The next Board of Directors meeting will be on February 8 at 7 p.m.