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Lessening restrictions in the district brought up

DARLINGTON – The Darlington Community School District’s Board of Education discussed the possibility of loosening the restrictions in both buildings.

Lafayette County Health Director Julie Leibfried spoke with the board and answered some questions brought forth by superintendent Cale Jackson.

She began by telling the board that all of their teachers who wanted to be vaccinated were on Thursday, March 4, along with every district in Lafayette County, which did take place.

Jackson asked if students still need to wear masks when they go outside at recess.

Leibfried stated they do as long as the students are coming within six feet of each other for more than 15 minutes.

“The guidance is 15 minutes and that is cumulative during the day. My recommendation is to continue to wear them,” Leibfried said.

Matt Crist asked what needed to be done to “speed up the process” so the district can begin moving forward.

“At first they were not able to have recess at all but all of a sudden we have recesses. Is it up to administration to ask more questions on what we can or cannot do? I would like to continue to slowly open it up in a safe level,” Crist said.

Crist wanted to see eighth grade students be able to lift weights at the high school. He questioned if it was an issue to have them mix with high school students when they were able to have a petting zoo where high schoolers were around younger students. He wasn’t against the petting zoo but wasn’t sure if guidelines were followed.

“I don’t like to be called a hypocrite but we can’t do it one way and not another way.”

President Aaron Wolfe felt that every restriction the district has is going to be followed completely.

Nick Zuberbuhler brought up the issue of quarantining entire cohorts. He felt there were inconsistencies between the two schools. When a student in the high school tests positive for COVID-19, the only other students that are quarantined are the ones that had been around that one student for more than 15 minutes and less than six feet. In the DEMS building, if a student tests positive the entire classroom is quarantined.

‘I’m confused as to what we are using for criteria. Why are we continuing to quarantine the whole class instead of those in the area?” Zuberbuhler asked.

Leibfried explained that it is harder for the teacher in the younger classes to be sure which students didn’t get up and walk around and interact with other students.

There was a discussion as to why a teacher in the DEMS building didn’t have to be quarantined when their entire class was. It was stated the teacher felt they were not around the student who tested positive for closer than six feet or longer than 15 minutes. Many of the board members had an issue with that.

Leibfried explained that the reasoning behind the different guidelines between the high school and the DEMS building was because it is easier for the high school students to sit in their own seats and not move around as much as the younger students. Leibfried stated the board could make a policy change to allow the guidelines to change for the middle school students but keep everything the same for the younger grades.

Jackson then asked Leibfried about prom. Leibfried stated the county does not have an ordinance against large gatherings so the county could not tell the school district’s not to have prom but she felt the state would advice against it. She said there are ways to make it safe but it is a district decision.

Jackson brought up graduation. Leibfried again stated there are ways to make it a safe event.

Zuberbuhler informed that about 75 percent of all the residents in Lafayette County over the age of 65 have been vaccinated and he would like to see the district start to lessen up their restrictions. Zuberbuhler added that there would be some data coming out about not having to wear masks outdoors.

More discussion was had about whether to quarantine just a few students versus the entire class.

Wolfe suggested they continue to listen to the health department about how they should begin loosening up restrictions.

“We only have three months left. We have gotten this far. I would like to lessen things up. But if keeping restrictions makes it easier for us to have school in August and September—I don’t’ want to make changes until staff are vaccinated,” Wolfe said.

Student/Staff Memorial policy

The board entertained the second reading of the Student/Staff Memorial Policy.

Brunkow began by telling the board he would be voting against the policy.

“I don’t believe it is appropriate to have a policy that dictates how we wish to remember or memorialize the life of a student or staff member,” Brunkow said. “We haven’t had a policy before and it has served us well.”

He felt the policy would “pin” the board “in a corner of what we can or cannot do”.

The reason the subject of a policy came up, Brunkow continued, was because parents and administration couldn’t come up with an agreement.

He added that only one other school in the area has a policy for memorials and felt they should continue to treat the situations when they arise like the have in the past.

Joe Schilling agreed with Brunkow.

Wolfe felt the policy was put in place so the board could be consistent and fair in memorials for students and staff. “That is one thing we haven’t been.”

Theresa Siegenthaler felt the policy would help take some pressure off of administration so they wouldn’t have to make a tough decision and would tell the people there is a policy in place and they need to follow the policy.

Schilling didn’t think the board had failed in the past on being fair and consistent. “Not each one has to be the same. We can judge each as we go. I think we are overdoing it and painting ourselves in a corner.”

Wolfe reminded the board of how principal Aaron Lancaster felt strongly for this policy. He asked how the other administrators felt about it.

Jackson was in support. DEMS principal Lori Nodorft stated it was nice to have guidelines.

Wolfe made the motion to approve the policy with Joe Riechers seconding. It passed 7-2 with Brunkow and Schilling against.