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No mask mandates at school

By Lucas Lord

When students in the Harrisonville School District return to classes next week, there will be no mask mandates or mandated isolations except for students who are sick, including those with COVID-19.

On Dec. 21 the board voted to officially return schools to Scenario 1, meaning there is no masking requirement at any threshold.

Superintendent Paul Mensching, when asked, said the action was necessary both because of a court ruling deeming quarantines and other requirements unconstitutional, but also currently schools were not meeting the threshold for restrictions anyway. Over 10 percent of the students at a school would have to test positive under the plan the district approved.

“We just want to be keeping an eye on positive cases at this point,” said Mensching. “We just had 30 positives out of 2,300 (students) so that kind of gives you a look as to how we are doing. It is going to take a lot to reach that 10 percent and if we are there, then there is a strong possibility our staff are out too. If our staff is out, we’d have to close, because we couldn’t operate at that point anyway.”

Mensching also discussed his intent to work on a revision to board policy that would allow for additional pay to teachers who substitute for others during time normally reserved for their lesson planning.

“The other thing I wanted to briefly mention is teachers who sub during the day,” Mensching said. “We have always taken the approach that would be bonus pay but, a lot of districts are paying teachers who sub during the day. So, trying to work through the language and what that would look like I want to come before you with a presentation so hopefully we can pay those teachers who are taking time to sub during their planning period.”

As their other final act of 2021, members of the school board reviewed their contract with Durham School Services who provide the districts bus program.

“We contract our bus service through Durham school services, and they have done a great job for us. We are currently operating in our fifth year of a five-year agreement,” said Jason Eggers, assistant superintendent. “Currently, they are operating 17 routes which is down a route from what we have had the last couple years. Our ridership is down partly because we had requested parents transport their kids through the scope of the pandemic.”

Eggers told the board that in the new agreement the school would be asking for buses to be kept on a 10-year life cycle instead of a 12-year one to keep them newer and operating smoother.

“They have done a pretty good job of keeping those busses for us in the past,” Eggers said. “We have also asked for six spare buses for us to use. We currently operate two big blues but there may be times in Spring and Fall when we might have six or more trips planned to go out. So, you send a couple on big blues but then you need other spare buses around.”

According to the Eggers’s review, “Durham currently utilizes 29 buses to complete 17 secondary and 17 elementary routes: both before and after school. On average, buses transport over 1,017 Harrisonville students and travel approximately 1,261 miles per day.”

The board will consider an extension later.

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