NORTH CRAWFORD - The mask policy for athletic competition was changed at the North Crawford School Board meeting Monday night.
The new policy allows competitors actively engaged in playing indoors to not wear masks. This part of the policy is designed for home games. The policy also allows one coach acting as the head coach to be unmasked during the game.
However, all players seated on the bench, walking in hallways or in the locker room are required to wear a mask at home games.
Outdoor sports, like football, do not require players to be masked.
Indoor practices are a different story. The North Crawford School Board also approved the team being unmasked, while actively practicing indoors. Players not active are required to be masked. Of course, a federally mandated transportation policy requires everyone on school buses or in other school vehicles to be masked.
The North Crawford athletic policy for masking was also changed for away games. Under the previous policy, the school teams involved in indoor athletic events were required to wear masks when they played at schools that did not require their own teams to wear masks.
The new policy states that the North Crawford team will be free to follow the policy of the host school. Effectively, that means if the host school does not require masks on players or coaches, North Crawford teams would be free to do the same.
Yet, if the host school has a more restrictive policy, North Crawford would have to follow that more restrictive policy and that might include wearing masks while playing. It is a Ridge and Valley Conference rule that any visiting school must follow more restrictive masking rules of the home team.
The North Crawford School Board had 4-2 roll call vote to change the mask policy for indoor athletics. Voting in favor of the change were Jess Swenson, Ed Heisz, Mary Kuhn and Tanya Forkash, while Judy Powell and Jim Dworschack voted no opposing changing the existing athletic masking policy.
In introducing the agenda item, North Crawford District Administrator Brandon Munson cited the opinion of the district’s attorney Eileen Brownlee on the athletic mask matter.
The attorney said that the lack of specifics in the mask mandate as passed by the board allowed the administration to apply it to specific situations as it saw fit. She said the requirement to have athletes wear masks was a reasonable interpretation of applying the mask rule as passed by the board.
At the meeting Monday, Munson acknowledged a feeling of quirkiness seeing North Crawford volleyball players and coaches wearing masks at schools where the other team was not. Additionally, students and parents, including those from North Crawford, were not wearing masks.
Seneca is following similar mask rules for athletics as North Crawford had in place, as is Kickapoo. The other five schools in the conference are not.
Brownlee told Munson that of the dozens of school district she advises, many have mandatory mask rules, but are allowing their athletes to not mask when they’re playing on the surface of the competition. However, those schools will require players to be masked on benches, in locker rooms and on buses.
During the discussion, North Crawford School Board President Mary Kuhn questioned the wisdom of the current district policy requiring players to be masked at schools that don’t require it.
“When the team on the floor that they’re playing doesn’t wear masks and the spectators and everyone else is unmasked, I don’t think it makes sense to have just one piece be masked,” Kuhn said. “We’re talking about nine or 10 people.”
Board member Ed Heisz agreed with Kuhn and said if they were the visiting school and the host school had no mask requirement, it should be optional for the North Crawford players.
Jess Swenson noted it was hard to coach a team, while wearing a mask. She believes the right policy is to follow the host school’s mask rules, whether those restrictions are less or more restrictive.
Swenson also argued that there should be no masks at practice. She noted the team effectively formed its own (COVID) pod.
Kuhn then questioned North Crawford School nurse John Powell about what kind of protection the masked North Crawford players would have in a gym of unmasked people.
Powell used basketball as an example. He said if a masked player guarded an unmasked opponent, who was positive for COVID, the masked player would not have a greatly reduced risk of infection.
“They’re really protecting the other team,” Powell said of a masked team playing an unmasked team.
Swenson made the motion to alter the school’s mask policy to allow players and one coach to not wear masks while actively playing or practicing.
Masks would still be required for players on the bench, in the locker room or on buses. All fans and spectators at indoor North Crawford home games would still be required to wear masks.
Brandon Munson noted after the vote was taken that the North Crawford Playhouse would have to deal with masking for its practices and performances and this might have to be addressed in the future.
Prior to dealing with the mask issue the board received a brief presentation from Munson on the 2021-22 Preliminary Budget. Munson noted that revenues decreased from the state and increased from the federal government and there were lots of other changes occurring in what remained a fluid situation.
While the revenues had not been totally solidified at this point and to some extent the expenditures were also still being figured out, it appeared that preliminary balanced budget could be achieved, according to Munson.
The administrator noted that a final budget brought to the annual meeting for approval later in October would probably not look entirely the same as the preliminary budget being proposed at the meeting. Many things have not been finalized at this point.
After hearing the budget presentation, the board moved to unanimously approve the preliminary budget as proposed.
The board also approved a 2021-22 Safety Plan for the school based on a plan originally constructed and approved in 2016.
In other business the North Crawford School Board:
• approved hiring Christopher Conley as a new middle school math teacher
• learned from school nurse John Powell that COVID infection rates and quarantines at North Crawford were higher in September of 2021 than they were in 2020–on September 27, 2020 there was one confirmed case and 33 people quarantined; on September 27, 2021 there were 11 confirmed cases and 84 people had been quarantined
• approved having Powell prepare a plan to be brought before the board to have North Crawford certified to perform rapid COVID tests when they would be appropriate
• heard 15 minutes of public input from nine individuals on their opinions about the school’s masking policies and other COVID policies• set the next meeting date as Wednesday, Oct. 20