TWINSBURG — Several Twinsburg schools parents spoke for and against the district’s policy on masking in the buildings.
Currently, the district will make face coverings optional for students ages 12 and older, and optional for the staff who work with that age group. Masking will be mandatory for students younger than 12, the staff who work with them, and for staff working with medically fragile students.
Superintendent Kathryn Powers said during the July 14 board of education meeting that she recently met with other area superintendents with Donna Skoda with Summit County Public Health. Skoda has expressed concerns over the COVID-19 variants and told districts they “may have to pivot” in the coming school year. Powers added that so far about 1,500 parents have responded to a survey about whether they would prefer their students to be on-campus or if they would prefer to enroll in a virtual option.
“Ninety-nine percent said they wanted to come back to campus,” Powers said. “I’m very pleased about that. It shows confidence in the district.”
More: Twinsburg wants students in class, but online option may be available
Two parents asked the school board to reconsider mandatory face coverings for children 11 and younger.
Katie McVey, who lives in Twinsburg, said she has four children in the Twinsburg schools, a seventh-grader, a fourth-grader, and twins going into the first grade.
“Three out of four of them will have to mask,” McVey said. “And they don’t want to do that again.”
McVey said that younger children have lower chances of getting COVID-19 and low risk of serious illness, and that several other districts have made masks optional for all.
According to information from Summit County Public Health, as of July 14, the average number of new cases in the last seven days was 10. There have been 124 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 in Summit County.
“There are low numbers of cases now,” McVey said. “They don’t justify 3- to 11-year- olds wearing masks all day. Some children cannot understand others, or cannot be understood, with masks.”
McVey said a good compromise would be to have masks be optional when they are in the classroom, when there would be social distancing measures in place.
Jim Lucko, also of Twinsburg, said he agreed with McVey.
“It seems like there are people who feel there are negative effects of wearing a mask,” Lucko said. “A lot of things that have been decided don’t seem to factor all of the positives and negatives. Give parents a choice.”
However, Jeanine Gardinsky, who sent her statement to be read during the meeting, said she was a nurse and cautioned against loosening protocols too soon.
“Once you’ve ordered a refrigerator truck for bodies, it changes your perspective,” Gardinsky said. “And yes, we used them. The looser protocols would be a mistake.” She added that one family’s decision could impact other families.
“Yes, younger children generally do not develop serious symptoms, but how would you feel if one child died or had long symptoms?” Gardinsky asked.
Resident Michael Walker said that whatever the school board ultimately decides, he hoped that they would engage more with the community and seek their input.
Consulting contract approved 3-2
The school board approved 3-2 a contract with Eric Brunton Consulting LLC in Lyndhurst for business consulting services for Aug. 1, 2021, through July 31, 2022.
Board president Tina Davis, board vice president Mark Curtis, and member Rob Felber voted for the contract, and board members Adrienne Gordon and Angela DeFabio voted against.
Under the contract, Eric Brunton Consulting would be paid $60 an hour, up to 650 hours. Payment would come from the district general fund.
Curtis said the firm “has done work for us in the past.”
Powers said that Brunton “has been behind the effort of moving many items” into the school buildings, and has been helping “get the district’s equipment and staff back to where they belong.” She added that Brunton was a former educator and even helped the district’s transportation department “a couple years ago.”
Neither Gordon nor DeFabio commented on why the opposed the contract, although Felber asked for discussion since the legislation was pulled for a separate vote. On Thursday, Gordon posted on her Facebook page that “my ‘no’ vote has to do with the contract not having clear deliverables associated with it, and the general statement of work in the cover letter and the hourly rate seeming to have a large disconnect in my opinion.”
Energy conservation program making progress
Chad Welker, the district’s business manager, said the district’s energy conservation projects, which focused on lighting, mechanical systems and controls, was making good progress.
“The interior lighting at the high school is 99% complete,” Welker said. He added that the lighting in the high school, R.B. Chamberlin Middle School and Dodge Intermediate School were complete, and lighting in the rest of the middle and intermediate schools “is underway.”
The remaining lighting work, plus lighting at Wilcox Primary and Bissell Elementary schools are scheduled to start at the beginning of the school year, Welker said. Exterior lighting upgrades will start in the late summer or fall.
The outdated controls at the middle and intermediate schools have been replaced, Welker said.
“We were using a dial-up modem control system,” Welker said. “We were really excited to get the upgrades.”
The entire control system throughout the district should be operational by this winter, Welker said.
Work on the boiler and pump systems at Wilcox, Bissell and Dodge are scheduled to begin this month, and should be done this fall, Welker said. Additionally, cooling upgrades are scheduled for the end of cooling season and other mechanical upgrades should be complete by this winter.
In March, the school board approved a nearly $2.3 million contract Gardiner Service Co. in Solon to update the lighting and HVAC systems in all five school buildings.
More: Twinsburg school board approves contract for utilities work after debate
Reporter April Helms can be reached at [email protected]