DARLINGTON – Darlington Community School District Board of Education member Matt Crist made the motion Monday night, April 5 that allowed all students either participating in outside recess or outdoor classes to have the option of not wearing a mask.
Nick Zuberbuhler seconded the motion stating that he still hasn’t seen any research saying there has been any spread happing outside. He added that there has been a high vaccination rate in the county.
Colleen Williams asked if the motion pertained to any WIAA activities. Both superintendent Cale Jackson and Crist stated that this is a different situation and the district would still be following the WIAA guidelines.
Board president Aaron Wolfe was reluctant to make the change but felt it was ok.
“We are almost at the end of the school year and I would hate to jeopardize students having to wear masks in August and September when we come back,” Wolfe said.
Zuberbuhler added that by next fall the high school age students might be able to discard their masks as the age of vaccination is now at 16 years and older.
The motion passed.
Early Graduation Request
The board denied another early graduation request from a student wanting to graduate this year in May.
The student moved to Darlington from another country three years ago. At the time, they didn’t have their transcripts from their previous school so the district placed them into the freshman grade. It was discovered later that the student should have been entered into the sophomore grade. With the students transcripts from their other school now at Darlington, the student, who is 18, has met all the requirements to graduate, but is currently at a junior status.
Williams stated the board just denied an early graduation request because the request was not made on time according to the policy.
“I’m not comfortable to allow this even though it is a different situation,” she said.
Teresa Siegenthaler asked if they don’t get their request granted, does that student plan on dropping out. Jackson felt the student would then just reapply their early graduation request to graduate in December instead.
Crist made the motion to deny the request with Williams seconding.
Crist questioned why it took the school district three years to figure out the mistake. Jackson said they knew the entire time that they made the mistake.
“When a student moves here from another country we can enter them into whatever grade we feel is appropriate. Once they are entered in they have to stay that way,” Jackson said.
He explained that there were districts that were entering students into their districts as freshman only to figure out they made a mistake and then allowed them to skip their sophomore year and make them juniors. The federal government didn’t like that as they were skipping the federal testing. They buckled down and made it a rule that once they were to be entered into a grade it cannot be changed unless by an act of congress.
Williams asked why the act of congress has not taken place before the request and asked if anyone had informed the student or parents they needed to apply by last September to graduate early. Jackson did not think anyone informed them.
“I don’t see how you can let one not graduate early because they met the deadline, no matter the circumstances, if that is the policy you have to follow to approve,” Williams said.
Wolfe asked when Darlington received this student’s transcripts. Acting-DHS principal Tom Uppena stated it was only last year or the year before.
Bob Hermanson didn’t feel it was right to punish a student for issues that were beyond anyone’s control.
Williams said, “We are preparing these kids to be adults. There are deadlines. If you don’t do your work, you lose your job. We have policies in place for a reason.”
Crist asked, “If you are saying we had this paperwork for a year, are you saying we failed the student or did they make the mistake?”
Jackson said that looking back, someone at the school should have advised the student and parents on when the paperwork needed to be done or they could have been responsible enough to check into it.
Wolfe said, “Did we do our due diligence in making sure that student understood what they should do and they didn’t do it then it is on them. But if we didn’t do it then I’d be willing to make an exception to our policy.”
The motion to deny the request passed 4-3 with Crist, Siegenthaler, Williams and Zuberbuhler for and Hermanson, Riechers and Wolfe against.
The comment was made afterward that a request could be submitted again to graduate in the end of the fall semester and the board could take that up as soon as that request comes in.