Board updates timeline for the 2021-2022 school year and discusses optional masks in schools

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Julia Nardone

North Penn School Board meets fully in person at the ESC to discuss the 2021-2022 school year

During the June action meeting Thursday night, the North Penn School Board continued their discussion on the very heated topic of whether masks for the 2021-2022 school year will be optional for ages 5-12.

Starting off the meeting, Mrs. Joanne Wernis and Mrs. Cathy Heath highlighted the North Penn School District’s Odyssey of the Mind teams and thanked everyone involved for their cooperation in such a challenging year. 

In the First Audience of Citizens, co-founder of the Movement for Black and Brown Lives of Montgomery County, Carmina Taylor spoke on the actions North Penn has been making to ensure their district is as equal as it can be.

“I think it’s exceptional that you guys have been absolutely committed,” Taylor said. “I want to acknowledge the gratitude that I have and the respect that I have for this relationship because it’s so important that [the North Penn School District] is becoming the standard for Montgomery County.”

Many parents concerned about their children’s right to unmask spoke as well, some more irate than others about how the Board is handling the difficult task of catering to everyone’s needs.

“I am capable of weighing the risks and benefits of medical decisions for my family,” parent Karen Blanc expressed.

During the Superintendent’s report made by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Todd Bauer, as Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich was away at the North Penn Softball team’s state tournament game watching as they won 11-0, he reported that during the 2021-2022 school year, meals will continue to be free for all students.

During the finance report, Chief Financial Officer Steve Skrocki reported that the overall district spending during the 2020-2021 school year was lower than expected. 

“We started this school year with a 6.4 million dollar deficit that was approved last June and it appears that we are at pretty much break-even point for this school year’s projections,” Skrocki said optimistically. 

The timeline for this summer regarding decisions for next year has been updated because some parents wanted to wait until the Health and Safety Plan has been released to make a decision for their child. That plan will come out at the next Action meeting, July 15. 

The new timeline is as follows:

June 8: First presentation

June 17: Updated Timeline

July 15: Health and Safety Plan Approval

July 16-23: Family Commitment

July-August: Hire, Assign, Schedule

August 30: First Day of School

The survey that will be conducted from July 16 to July 23 is binding. For elementary level students, families can make commitments for trimesters at a minimum but can commit for a full year if they want. Secondary families can only make commitments for the year. The link to the presentation can be found here.

Masks will be optional for secondary students but the Board still needs to decide for elementary students. Later in the meeting, it was discussed but no decision was made for next year. 

“In schools, effective June 21, for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, masks should be optional,””

— Montgomery County Health Official

“In schools, effective June 21, for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, masks should be optional,” a Montgomery Health official quoted when speaking to Dr. Bauer earlier in the week, giving official guidance for the upcoming school year. “At this point, it is highly unlikely that you will be exposed to COVID-19 in the county.”

In Pennsylvania, the mask mandate will be lifted on June 28. The district’s current health and safety plan says masks must be worn in schools until it expires June 30, so the Board voted to allow masks to be optional for anyone participating in any camps or activities inside the schools during the next two weeks.

“I just want to comment that we’re gotten to this place because we’ve pulled together as a community and we focused on compliance and safety. We’ve put the safety concerns of our students and our entire community first,””

— Board Director Juliane Ramić

“I just want to comment that we’re gotten to this place because we’ve pulled together as a community and we focused on compliance and safety. We’ve put the safety concerns of our students and our entire community first,” Board director Juliane Ramić expressed. 

During the second Audience of Citizens, many parents reiterated their concerns over mask-wearing in schools, as well as a North Penn student expressing his own opinion on the matter.

“I know nobody likes masks but if we’re not wearing masks, I feel most comfortable with my peers when they’re vaccinated,” He said, asking the board to consider encouraging vaccinations among students and staff who are eligible to make schools safer for those unmasked. 

The next School Board meeting will be a work session meeting on July 6, in person at the ESC at 7:00 pm.