Schools to make face masks optional

by Sean Dunlap
Franklin County Public Schools will go to an optional mask policy starting Monday, Nov. 29, but will require face mask usage while on school buses until further notice. Franklin County Public Schools will go to an optional mask policy starting Monday, Nov. 29, but will require face mask usage while on school buses until further notice.

When Franklin County School District classes resume next week following the Thanksgiving holiday, face masks will be optional both inside and outside buildings, according to Superintendent of Education Chris Kent.

However, masks will still be required to ride on school buses within the district until further notice.

“We will try (the optional mask policy on campuses_ between the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks,” Kent said at the close of the monthly Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 16.

“If all goes well, we will continue this policy after Christmas. If coronavirus problems arise, we might mandate masks in January as before.”

In making the announcement, Kent noted the district appreciates the patience and diligence shown by everyone during what has been a difficult period since the pandemic began in March, 2020.

“All of you have done everything necessary to protect yourself and our students, and I greatly appreciate that,” Kent continued. “I believe I can say all of us want nothing more than to get back to ‘normalcy,’ and that is my goal.

“However, I have tried to be patient and not make changes too soon. I feel now is the right time to make this change, and I hope you will support it. We will continue to monitor cases and make adjustments when necessary.”

The superintendent said some individuals — including students and school personnel — will choose to continue to wear their masks, and he fully supports that choice.

“I ask all of you to protect those persons from harassment of any form,” he added. “We need to support each other and our choices in this matter.”

Additionally, Kent said the district will not change its enhanced disinfection policies enacted because of the pandemic — including frequent cleaning of high-traffic areas along with offering hand sanitizers throughout each campus.

In other action during last week’s meeting, the Franklin County Board of Education:

• Accepted a low bid from Butcher Distributors LLC in the amount of $124,664 to replace existing HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems district-wide.

Funding for the HVAC project is provided through the second round of ESSER — Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief — funding offered to schools nationwide via the federal government’s coronavirus assistance program.

“This program would replace the big units — about 14 of them — not used in classrooms,” Kent said.

“These range anywhere from 3.5 to 17.5 ton units and will be placed on the gyms at the high and upper elementary schools, both cafeterias and the auditorium.”

The superintendent said the bid was for the purchase of HVAC equipment only with the set-up and installation of the units to be completed in-house.

• Approved the application for a fiscal year 2022 educational enhancement grant for the Franklin County Career and Technical Center.

The grant, in the amount of $14,000, would benefit the FCCTC’s welding program and be utilized to purchase equipment used to teach the career-readiness course.

• Authorized a service agreement between the district and ACT Inc., to provide testing services for 10th grade students in Franklin County.

• Accepted a recommendation to hire certified appraisers for five farm-residential and residential lease agreements involving 16th Section lands in the county owned by the school district.

The appraisal costs will be assessed to the lease holders who wish to renew their agreements.

• Approved the extension of an oil-gas-mineral lease involving property in Section 33-Township 5 North-Range 1 East.

The six-month extension will net $2,500 for the school system.

• Approved the transfer of a student into the Franklin County School District from Jefferson County.

The next business meeting for the school board is set for 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 21 in the Superintendent’s Office on First Street in Meadville.

The session is open to the public.