BARNARD, Mo. — South Nodaway Board of Education members unanimously approved a mask mandate to align itself with new state K-12 guidelines announced last week by Gov. Mike Parson.
The state guidance will no longer require students or staff to be considered a close contact or to subsequently quarantine for COVID-19 as long as they do not show symptoms and all parties involved in the exposure were properly wearing masks.
R-IV Superintendent Johnnie Silkett said one of the difficulties with the mandate will be classroom size because a lot of the rooms are small, meaning masks will need to be worn at all times.
“This is the best thing for our kids to keep them in school,” said Silkett, who attended the meeting virtually due to being quarantined. “We’re thankful for the changes we’ve gotten.”
School Nurse Tabitha Holtman told the board that the school has four positive cases, but 25 students out on quarantine. She explained that if the mask mandate had been in effect at the time of exposure, 21 of those students who are not sick would still be in school.
High School Principal Dustin Skoglund said that within the past few weeks multiple teachers and substitutes have had to be out for contact.
“We have strained our resources in that regard,” he said explaining that the mandate will help keep resources and students in school.
Board member Rick Holtman explained that he doesn’t believe masks will save people from getting the virus, but hand washing. He said putting something on students’ faces that they will continually touch seems problematic. He pushed the board to revisit the topic at each board meeting.
“I think that’s wise, everything changes,” said Silkett.
Skoglund said he’s had numerous students express their anxiety in the last five to seven days about rearranging seating charts, learning online and potentially knocking out basketball players.
“This alleviates all of that,” he said. “... They don’t have to worry about who they’re sitting by. They can worry about school or being 14.”
Silkett said approving the mandate doesn’t mean the district will stop mitigating risks.
Board President Macia Kemper asked if staff members were on board with the mandate. Skoglund said “in a general sense yes,” but that a few individuals have strong convictions. He and Tabitha Holtman have spoken to them to help resolve any issues.
According to letter to parents posted to the district website, the district suggests Pre-K-12 students wear a mask during times when social distancing is not possible. Face coverings may be removed during lunch, recess and when instructed by faculty or administration.
Last month Silkett informed the board he would be retiring at the end of the year. During a closed session of the board meeting Tuesday evening members interviewed Skoglund and voted to hire him.
“I look forward to the opportunity to give back to my school and community,” Skoglund told The Forum in an email Wednesday. “I’m grateful and humbled for the chance to maintain the standard of excellence established by South Nodaway teachers, staff, students and community. I’m anxious to learn from Mr. Silkett prior to his well-earned retirement.”
The board unanimously approved the hire at a salary of $94,000 for the 2021-22 school year.
- Board members approved early graduation for three students: Jayme Kemper, Sarah Burke and Kyle Karr. Each student wrote a letter to the board requesting early graduation noting they have or will complete the requirements by the end of semester.
- The filing period for two school board seats currently held by Macia Kemper and Brian Flora will be up for election in April 2021 opens Dec. 15 and continues through Jan. 9, 2021. To file, applicants must contact Board Secretary Brandy Wolf from 8 a.m to 4 p.m. during the school week and provide a notarized affidavit stating the person running owes no back taxes.