RB School Board passed resolution concerning COVID procedures

At a special meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 31, the Red Bud Board of Education discussed and unanimously approved of a resolution to establish COVID-19 procedures for the district.
Board President Todd Birkner noted that with rumors circulating and the schools already receiving calls about it, the board wanted to be proactive in deciding how to deal with COVID so they can be ready if needed.
The resolution specifically outlines that the district will not require students or staff to wear masks and that they will not exclude any asymptomatic children from school.
It further outlines that based on current research data, excluding students and staff from school who were asymptomatic, and to require masks be worn, “had a significant and negative effect on the social wellbeing and educational advancement of students.” It also specifically noted the mask requirement “was not effective in diminishing the spread of COVID-19.”
In addition, the resolution pointed out that the school board is not lawfully authorized to quarantine students or staff, to require masks be worn or to conduct contact tracing. They are also “not required to comply with any unlawful” executive order issued by the state governor or directives/guidelines issued by the state board of education.
“We’re making a stand this time,” noted Birkner, adding that they wanted to pass this resolution now before any requirements, if they are made again, are imposed upon the school. “We really mean this and if necessary will stand in front of a judge.”
Superintendent Jonathan Tallman, as well as the board members, expressed the frustrations they faced last time in complying with COVID-19 mandates.
“Pretty much everyone was involved previously with masks and quarantines,” Birkner said. “But let’s not let that happen again.”
He added that the board wanted to make sure they were protected in taking this stance, and hired a lawyer to write up this resolution.
Tallman summarized, “We weren’t authorized to do what we did last time, to require masks or deny healthy kids to go to school.” He added that they do not have the authority to quarantine, and that only the health department can do that.
“So we’re making it clear that we don’t have the authority to do what we did and won’t do it again,” Tallman stated, adding how immensely frustrating it was for him and the other administrators to have to enforce masks and conduct spit tests of children to test for COVID.
He also gave an apology to all the students that had to go through that experience.
Tallman hopes other school districts will follow suit and issue similar resolutions.
“We all lived through some terrible times,” board member Rick Stenzel commented. “But the science was flawed and the politicians failed us.”
Board member Bob Doty commented about how last time local control was taken away from the board, with threats of losing funding and accreditation if they did not follow the mandates.
“Unless a judge tells us otherwise, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep local control, listen to parents and see what our community wants to do,” Doty said. “Two years ago was a disaster, but it was hard to say no with how we were threatened. But this is what we’re going to do.”
“We will always be concerned with the health and safety of the kids and staff. But last time the board was forced to do something that wasn’t really legal,” commented board member Carol Harms. “We’re not throwing caution to the wind.”
She continued, “It was uncharted territory then and now we know more.”
Board member James Hohgrefe, pointed out that he and Birkner both had children that were unable to have normal graduation commencements thanks to the COVID pandemic.
“We’re taking the opportunity to avoid that situation again. So many kids lost so much – sports, experiences and more. If we have the opportunity to avoid that again, we will.”
Despite Tallman sending an email to all district parents in advance letting them know they would be discussing this resolution, there were only a handful in attendance at the meeting. Those that were there though expressed their appreciation to the board for being proactive and taking this stance.
There was a question about if the COVID vaccine would be required and if this resolution would cover any future situations like the COVID pandemic.
Tallman explained that the board cannot require any vaccinations, those are mandated by the state board of education. This resolution covers the school setting itself.
As for what the future holds, he said, “Believe and trust that this board values the community. We made a mistake once, but won’t again.”
While the COVID procedure resolution may have been the biggest part of the meeting, it was not the only reason the board held a special meeting that night. Birkner pointed out that the meeting was to address a few items that needed to be taken care of before their next regular meeting.
In particular, this was to approve the collective bargaining agreement with the district paraprofessionals, and to approve wages and benefits for non-certified staff.
Birkner noted that both Tallman and board member Diane Schoenbeck had worked on the agreement with the paraprofessionals.
Tallman gave some additional background information, stating that the paraprofessionals had formed a union last year. “And the first thing was to create, from scratch, a contract.”
He added that while the teachers union already has a contract that they can make minor changes to, it took more time to create this brand new contract.
Tallman noted that the paraprofessionals union had met the night prior and had voted to approve, so the board was ratifying the agreement that night.
The board then approved of the wages and benefits for non-certified staff (bus drivers, custodians, secretaries and cafeteria staff).
“We usually try to have this done before the school year (starts), but the teacher negotiations went long and developing contracts with the paraprofessionals took time, so we’re doing it now,” Tallman stated.
“It’s been a long summer,” added Birkner of all that the board had been working on.