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R-III Board Addresses COVID Policies and Enacts Updates

The ongoing topic of COVID was once again a source of debate when the Holden R-III School Board held its monthly meeting Jan. 10.

In his report to the Board, Superintendent Dr. Mike Hough recommended no revisions to the plan this month due to no changes to the guidance from MO Dept. of Health and Senior Services to COVID-19 protocols for K-12 school districts.

A motion to revise the current plan, (Strong Start, Safe Return To In-Person Instruction & Continuity Of Services) was made by Alex Haun, and seconded by Bobby Zimmer.

It included striking out mask mandates, changing attendance thresholds to reflect only a percentage of COVID positive absences to trigger extra mitigation, and did away with extra-curricular exclusions and school staff contact tracing.

However, after discussion, Alex Haun withdrew his motion.

Following, a second motion was made by Haun and Zimmer.

That motion was to make a revision to the Strong Start plan, changing the attendance matrix to only track absences of the COVID-19 positive cases and triggering the extra mitigation protocols when absences reach three percent or above.

The revision would read “In a measure to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the district will monitor the daily COVID-19 positivity rate in each of the school buildings. “If a Holden R-III building has a positivity rate of three percent or above, the district will increase mitigation efforts in that building, including more frequent hand-washing, increased disinfection efforts, increased physical distancing requirements, and required masks/face coverings when appropriate physical distancing cannot be maintained. “These increased levels of mitigation will continue until the daily positivity rate for that building is below three percent. A message will be sent to all families in the affected building if these measures become necessary and a follow-up message will be sent when the requirements have been lifted.”

That motion carried 4-2-1. Sarah Abel, Alex Haun, Kevin Coleman and Bobby Zimmer cast the yes votes; Tonyea Inglis and Georgia Jarman cast the no votes.

Ray Briscoe abstained, citing the need for more information before he was comfortable to vote on the issue.

The Board then turned to new business approving three measures with no descending votes. They included: *The April 5, 2022 Board Candidate Ballot. The ballot is to elect two directors for a term of three years each from the following candidates: Gerilynn Hoover, Sarah Abel, Dillon Zavadil, Travis Coones, Nathan Haun, Bill Stackhouse and Aaron Hynds.

*The Teacher Retention & Grow Your Own Teacher Grants as presented, and – *The Pre-K tuition for 2022-23 was set at $100 per week, per student and K-12 2022-23 tuition at a rate of $10,012 per year, per student.

Shared topics for the month included: guidance, Bright Futures and the Superintendent’s report. Guidance services highlighted the 2020-21 school year and Fall semester, 2021.

Counselors Brittany Morgan, Haleigh Bryant and Ryan Beenken noted the district providing a social worker and partnership with Country Crossroads counseling helped their departments tremendously.

For Bright Futures, Community Coordinator Andie Smith said the move of the program’s hub into the HS building has enabled her to use students’ assistance in its organization.

She also introduced a new food program, “Snacks to Go,” that assists with student food needs in the middle school and high school.

She shared a new partnership with “Giving the Basics” organization, which helps obtain free personal hygiene products to students.

In his Superintendent’s report, Dr. Hough shared an MSBA video highlighting the school food supply chain crisis throughout the state, school safety, and reminded members that the legislative forum will be held on March 7.

He also relayed an update that the Johnson County Community Health Services (JCCHS) has informed county superintendents that their office will no longer be providing guidance to schools.

That said, the MO DHSS COVID-19 protocol guidance to K-12 schools has not changed since October.

However, the department indicated it plans to make revisions in light of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new guidelines.

In recognition news, student-athlete Danny Hartzler was presented a trophy for being named to Missouri’s All-State Football team.

Coach David Diener spoke about Danny’s accomplishments for the season.

The January meeting of the R-III Board adjourned and members will reconvene at 7 p.m. on Feb. 14 in the middle school library.

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