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Edinburg School District going masks optional

EDINBURG — The Edinburg Board of Education held a regular meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 9, in the district media center.

Following the ruling on the state’s mask mandate that put a temporary hold on requiring masks in classrooms, the Edinburg School District made the decision to go masks optional.

District Superintendent Ben Theilen stated, “What I would advise the Board at this point is, based on interpretation from our legal counsel, from our insurance carrier, and from other areas, it would be recommended that we either adopt a procedure that would be coming from Superintendent rule and not Board action, that would be we either go mask optional for staff masks and student masks, or continue

on with the mask mandate we have now knowing full well it was not enforceable based on the interpretation of that court ruling last week. Temporarily, and I want to make sure I make that clear, this is all temporary until the appeal process is taken care of or there is a stay put in place. This could all change tomorrow or next week. Currently, though, our district numbers are zero. I would recommend that we do go ahead and voice that masks areoptionaltonight.Wewould still follow our Return to Learn plan, making sure we are distancing any way we can and look at our numbers. We are going to be extremely mindful as adults to take this seriously and that COVID isn’t over. I would like some input from the Board.”

Board Member Adam Leady Agreed. “We should focus more on education and less on facial coverings. We should follow where the numbers are leading and with the leeway the state has given us – we have followed the state through this whole thing, and done what was required of us as a Board to do the best for the children, and we will continue to do that. It would be a disservice if we weren’t following the numbers.”

The rest of the Board also agreed with Theilen and Leady. Going forward, Edinburg plans to have masks be optional in areas they can be taken off. However, per federal guidelines, masks will still have to be worn on school buses. All mass transit systems are still required to have everyone riding be masked.

Theilen also mentioned at the meeting that he was looking into a counseling program for employees that covered a wide range of topics and concerns working adults in a pandemic education environment might be facing. He wanted a program that was not only affordable, but worthwhile. He had been in contact with a school in Paris that recommended a program to him. For a year of services, he thought it would not cost more than $4,000. Theilen planned to bring the program to the Board in March for a vote, but wanted them to be aware of his ideas first and get some feedback. The Board was receptive to the idea.

Principal Ashley Francis said that the students continued to show improvement due to the intervention the district had undertaken to combat learning loss from the pandemic. She was planning on offering incentives to keep the high school students motivated, as they had the hardest time keeping the momentum going. Francis was also continuing to work on mental health checks with the kids. She announced that the district had also gained three more certified bus drivers for the district, with one of them being Theilen himself. While not a solution to the extreme bus driver shortage facing the state, Francis said it would help cover sudden route issues.

Also approved at the meeting:

• Payment of January 12

• February 9 vendors bills ($80,884.77)

• Cash receipts January 12 – February 9 ($218,393.10)

• January activity account ($77,126.64)

• Second reading of updated Board policies

• FY23 school calendar with note that ISBE could tweak it

• Staff seniority list

The meeting ended at 7:26 p.m. The next regular meeting of the Edinburg Board of Education will be on Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2022, at 6:00 p.m. in the district media center.

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